Joe Manchin cites “fake” GOP numbers to demand last-minute cuts to Biden's Build Back Better

Lindsey Graham's 11th-hour stunt appears to have worked on Manchin — which may doom Biden's legacy legislation

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published December 14, 2021 12:49PM (EST)

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is pushing for more cuts to the Democrats' Build Back Better package as Senate Majority Chuck Schumer races to pass the bill before Christmas.

Manchin, who appears to be the last major Democratic holdout on President Biden's signature legislation, again called for changes to the bill on Monday, citing a Republican-requested analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of what various programs in the bill might cost if they are extended beyond what the legislation actually calls for.

The CBO said in November that the actual bill would cost $1.7 trillion and add $367 billion to the deficit over the next decade, though the Treasury estimates that it will actually raise money, thanks to increased IRS enforcement in the bill. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in an apparent bid to sway Manchin's vote, requested a CBO analysis of how much it would cost to make all the programs in the bill permanent for 10 years. The CBO in a report on Friday said that hypothetical bill would add nearly $3 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.

Manchin on Monday called the report "very sobering."

"Everyone has to choose basically what we can sustain," he told reporters.

RELATED: Joe Manchin throws last-minute wrench in Democrats' infrastructure negotiations

The White House on Monday rejected the deficit projection as "fake."

"What you're talking about here is a fake CBO score that is not based on the actual bill that anybody is voting on," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "This was a request by Sen. Graham to score a bill that is not currently being debated. That is his prerogative to do. But what our focus is on is on the existing bill that will lower the deficit, that will also, over an additional 10 years, pay for the $2 trillion tax cuts that Republicans didn't pay for. They're welcome for that."

Though the original proposal included funding for programs like paid family and medical leave for a 10-year period, Democrats have been forced to slash the length of programs to appease both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who oppose corporate tax increases and other revenue-raising measures. Democrats now appear set to cut the paid leave program entirely in order to win Manchin's vote.

Psaki said Monday that Biden is committed to extending certain programs if he can find the funding but added, "We should really focus on the actual bill everybody is going to vote on and considering in Congress right now."

Manchin, who has long expressed concern that the BBB package would contribute to rising inflation even though rating agencies say it will not, said he is still "engaged" in discussions with Biden on the bill but is not ready to commit to voting for it. He appears determined to extract "major changes" in the final version, according to Politico.

"Listen, let's at least see the bill. Need to see what they write, what's the final print. That tells you everything," Manchin said.

Manchin's pushback comes as Schumer continues to meet with the Senate parliamentarian to finalize the bill this week. The Democratic leader said Monday that the party is "working hard to put the Senate in a position to get the legislation across the finish line before Christmas."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

It's unclear whether Democrats can win over Manchin by then, especially after an updated draft released over the weekend included the paid leave proposal he opposes. Schumer has urged Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has led the push on paid leave, to "keep fighting" to include it in the final proposal, according to Politico. Gillibrand has expressed optimism that Democrats can "get Joe Manchin to yes" by Christmas.

Manchin has also pushed back against the proposed extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit, which expires within days, because it may be extended beyond the one year included in the bill.

"Where does the money come from? We go back and another bite and more and more funding? Or do we just throw caution to the wind and have debt financing, which has been done by both parties for far too long?" he said. He added that he wants to see more funding from the revenue raised by the bill to go toward paying down the national debt instead of funding social programs.

Manchin has also repeatedly urged Democrats to delay the bill until next year.

 "People have been in a hurry for a long time to do something, but I think, basically, we're seeing things unfold that allows us to prepare better," he reiterated on Monday. "And that's what we should do."

Manchin's continued reluctance on the bill has frustrated many Democrats, who are hungry for a big legislative win to finish the year.

"There's nothing more to be gained from more talk," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, told The New York Times. "We have talked and talked and talked. It's time to make some final decisions and vote."

Read more on the slow-unfolding battle for Build Back Better:

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregation Build Back Better Joe Biden Joe Manchin Lindsey Graham Politics