Manchin releases op-ed opposing Biden's infrastructure plan following corporate lobbying blitz

Citing troubles in Afghanistan, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said Democrats should “hit the pause button" in U.S.

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published September 2, 2021 5:45PM (EDT)

Sen. Joe Manchin (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin, R-Va., is calling for a "pause" on President Biden's landmark $3.5 billion infrastructure package following a sudden wave of pushback from Corporate America, including major drug makers, investment banks, and tech giants. 

"Some in Congress have a strange belief there is an infinite supply of money to deal with any current or future crisis, and that spending trillions upon trillions will have no negative consequence for the future," Manchin wrote on Thursday in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. "I disagree."

Citing concerns around the national debt and inflation, Manchin argued that "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." According to Bloomberg, "in comments Wednesday at an event hosted by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the moderate Democrat said his party should 'hit the pause button,'" citing concerns after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as a more urgent priority. 

Manchin also suggested that his Democratic colleagues have not done a full accounting of the bill's economic implications, but are instead more interested in fixing urgent social problems. He explained: "Establishing an artificial $3.5 trillion spending number and then reverse-engineering the partisan social priorities that should be funded isn't how you make good policy."

The Democrat's op-ed earned a wave of backlash from various progressive groups. "Abolish the Senate," Ellen Sciales, Communications Director of Sunrise Movement, said in a Thursday statement. 

Manchin's aggressive stance against the bill comes just as Corporate America mounts a new and strident effort to put the measure down. According to The Washington Post, companies like Pfizer, ExxonMobil, and Disney are currently organizing a "lobbying blitz" through various interest groups and trade associations such as National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, PhRMA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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The campaign, the Post noted, is expected to entail traditional lobbying channels as well as a flood of attack ads against Democrats. "We're doing it in every way you can imagine," Aric Newhouse, the senior vice president for policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, told the Post.

Manchin, long a centrist debt hawk, has consistently cautioned against federal overspending throughout his political career. But his campaign donations might tell a clearer story. Over the past two decades, the West Virginai Democrat has collected millions of dollars in campaign contributions from corporate donors, including Goldman Sachs, Comcast, Capital Group, and Dominion Energy – all of whom would suffer from the corporate tax hike couched into the Democrats infrastructure plan.

Back in August, the Senate passed the Democratic-led $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill dedicated to repairing roads, bridges, railways, and developing improved broadband throughout the U.S. As part of a long-awaited deal, Democrats agreed to downsize the original price tag of that measure and approve another standalone $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan to cover issues like childcare and climate control.

Now, the Democratic Party intends on passing the $3.5 trillion bill through budget reconciliation – a legislative maneuver which allows them to duck an inevitable Republican filibuster. Budget reconciliation does, however, require a simple majority for the measure to pass (which would be achieved with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote) – and without Manchin's support, the bill could be doomed to fail

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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