"Senator Joe Manchin (WV)" by Third Way Think Tank licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/thirdwaythinktank/35893697331

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today called out his Democrat colleagues for playing “shell games” and employing “budget gimmicks” and noted their reconciliation bill is a “recipe for economic crisis.”

Excerpts from this press conference are below:

“I’ve heard a lot of the mischaracterizations of my position since the President met with the House Democrats last Thursday and I would like to make an attempt to clear up any confusion about where I stand on the legislation that’s working its way through Congress.

In all of my years of public service, I’ve been around for a long time, I’ve never seen anything like this. The President of the United States has addressed the House Democratic caucus, twice recently, to urge action on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will sometimes be referred to as the BIF bill. Last week the speaker urged, speaker Pelosi urged the importance of voting and passing the BIF bill before the President took the world stage overseas, and still no action.

In my view this is not how the United States Congress should operate, or in my view has operated in the past. The political games have to stop. Twice now the House has balked at the opportunity to send the BIF legislation to the President. As you’ve heard, there are some House Democrats who say they can’t support this infrastructure package until they get my commitment on the reconciliation legislation.

It is time to vote for the BIF bill, up or down, and then go home and explain to your constituents the decision you made. I have always said if I can’t go home and explain it I can’t vote for it and if I can I will.

I have worked in good faith for three months, for the past three months with President Biden, leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and my colleagues on the reconciliation bill, and I will continue to do so. For the sake of the country, I urge the House to vote and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.

Throughout the last three months I have been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our $29 trillion in national debt that no one seems to really care about or even talk about. Nor will I support a package that risks hurting American families suffering from historic inflation. Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact that it will have on our national debt, our economy and most importantly all of our American people.

Every elected representative needs to know what they are voting for and the impact it has, not only on their constituents, but the entire country. That is why we must allow time for complete transparency and analysis of the impact of changes to our tax code, in energy, in climate policies to ensure that our country is well positioned to remain the superpower of the world, while we inspire the rest of the world toward a cleaner environment. This all can be done.

I for one won’t support a multi-trillion-dollar bill without greater clarity on why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects of inflation and debt that have on our economy and existing government programs. For example, how can I in good conscience vote for a bill that proposes massive expansion to government programs when essential programs like social security and Medicare face insolvency and benefits could start being reduced as soon as 2026 in Medicare and 2033 in Social Security. How does that make sense? I don’t think it does.

Meanwhile, elected leaders continue to ignore exploding inflation that our national debt continues to grow and interest payments on the debt will start to rapidly increase when the Fed has to start raising interest rates to try to slow down this runaway inflation.”

“However, as more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games, budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount, if the full time is run out, if you extended it permanently, and that we haven’t even spoken about. This is a recipe for economic crisis.

None of us should ever misrepresent to the American people what the real cost of legislation is. I’ve worked hard to find a path to compromise that’s obvious, compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress. It’s all or nothing, and their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything.

Enough is enough. It’s time our elected leaders in Washington, all of us, stop playing games with the needs of the American people in holding a critical infrastructure bill hostage while there is opportunity in the reconciliation bill that we can all agree on. We’ve been talking about this for months.

Again, to be clear, I will not support the reconciliation legislation without knowing how the bill would impact our debt, our economy, and our country and we won’t know that until we work through the text.

For the sake of our country, and again I am urging all of my colleagues in the House to vote and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it’s bipartisan, 69 votes, we worked on that for many, many months. As I have said before, holding that bill hostage is not going to work to get my support of what you want, it’s what we should all agree on and work through the process.

I’m open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward, but I am equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country, I’ve been very clear about that also, and most importantly hurts every American.”