With dozens dead across the Eastern United States in the wake of Hurricane Ida this week, Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday drew the ire of progressives by opposing Democrats' plan to quickly pass a $3.5 trillion package that would improve social programs and tackle the climate emergency.
The youth-led Sunrise Movement delivered a concise response to Manchin's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which the West Virginia Democrat outlined a position that jeopardizes not only the $3.5 trillion package his party aims to advance using the budget reconciliation process—due to the threat of a GOP filibuster in the Senate—but also a smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Senate Democrats, including Manchin, approved the budget blueprint for the $3.5 trillion package in mid-August, and the House passed it along party lines nearly two weeks later. President Joe Biden supports Democrats' plans to swiftly pass both that package—for which party leaders are now crafting formal legislation—and the bipartisan bill.
However, Manchin argued in an op-ed described by critics as "laughable" that "instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget reconciliation legislation."
The right-wing Democrat—who has had a key role in negotiations with the White House about legislation investing in physical and human infrastructure—wrote in part:
A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions. I have always said if I can't explain it, I can't vote for it, and I can't explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.
Another reason to pause: We must allow for a complete reporting and analysis of the implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next. Such a strategic pause will allow every member of Congress to use the transparent committee process to debate: What should we fund, and what can we simply not afford?
I, for one, won't support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.
The Debt Collective pushed back on Twitter, declaring: "Debt is being weaponized here to commit extraordinary violence. Debt is being used as the alibi for mass extinction. Joe Manchin is using debt as a weapon and aiming it directly at your job, directly at your children, directly at our futures."
Citizens for Tax Justice said that "Sen. Manchin talks a lot about spending, the debt, and what we can and cannot afford, failing to mention even once that we could pay for it all by simply requiring the richest Americans and tax-dodging corporations to pay their fair share of taxes."
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) responded to the op-ed with photos of the damage that the storm and subsequent flooding did to his district overnight Wednesday. He asked, "How much destruction do we need to see before it's worth investing in our climate?"
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—who is among the progressives threatening to withhold support for the bipartisan bill unless lawmakers urgently advance the broader package—noted not only the impact of the storm but also fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil's reported lobbying of Manchin regarding infrastructure legislation.
Rather than Manchin's proposed pause on the popular reconciliation legislation, Ocasio-Cortez said, "maybe we hit the 'cancel' button on this so-called 'bipartisan' charade of an Exxon lobbyist-drafted infrastructure bill unless we actually pass a law that helps people's lives with healthcare expansion, childcare, climate action, etc."
As Common Dreams has reported, progressives have condemned the bipartisan measure for funding "false" climate solutions and pointed to it as proof that it is necessary to simultaneously advance a $3.5 trillion bill.
"Alternatively," Ocasio-Cortez added, "if we want to bring down the $3.5 [trillion] we can bring back taxing the rich and boosting IRS enforcement that [moderates] originally worked so hard to trim back!"
Writer Zach Carter suggested that Manchin's op-ed "is all-in for tanking the Biden presidency" and whatever strategy Biden and Democratic leadership are pursuing with him "isn't working."
"Manchin has had [about six] months to learn what this bill does," Carter noted. "He's been involved in serious negotiations over it all year. He now says that he has no idea what the bill does. And he thinks that's a smart thing to say in public."
"It's really not hard to figure out what's on the agenda," he added, pointing to a White House fact sheet. "The public can read about it on the internet. Manchin is begging people to believe that he's a fool."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Jessica Corbett.