President Biden conceded Friday that centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) may torpedo his massive social spending plans after a report detailed the highest inflation in 39 years and the Congressional Budget Office released higher deficit projections for the package.
Biden blamed the inflation spike on the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain bottlenecks in a written statement and did so again when speaking with reporters. However, he admitted that there may be an effect on his plans to push more government spending.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Biden said when asked if he thought he would get Manchin’s vote. “I’m going to be talking to him in the beginning of the week.”
Manchin has repeatedly expressed concern about rising inflation and his vote alone could tank Biden’s ambitious agenda in the evenly divided Senate. Manchin also has expressed concern about what he calls “budget gimmicks” that undercount the true cost of the spending plan.
The Congressional Budget Office projected Friday that Biden’s sweeping Build Back Better Act would cost about $4.5 trillion and add $3 trillion in deficit spending if every program in the current version of the measure was extended over 10 years, or the same period of time used to calculate new revenue from tax changes.
Democrats shortened the duration of some programs in the House-passed version of the bill to whittle down the topline price tag. As passed by the House, the bill would cost $2.2 trillion, though Democrats hope to make permanent programs such as subsidized childcare and an enhanced child tax credit.
Manchin said Tuesday that the need to address inflation is more pressing than the need for new social programs.
“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at, and we’ve got to make sure we get this right. We just can’t continue to flood the market, as we’ve done,” he said.
Speaking ahead of the new CBO report, Manchin also criticized Democratic leaders for shortening the duration of programs to make their cost appear lower.
“One goes for three years, one goes for one year, and maybe one other one might go for the full 10 years,” he said. “Do they not intend for those programs to last the full 10 years? Well, if you intend for that to happen, what’s the real cost?”