WASHINGTON ― Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) has thrown another hurdle at President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, potentially dealing his party a massive setback ahead of the November midterm elections and dashing hopes of a meaningful action to combat climate change.
The West Virginia senator told Democratic leaders Thursday that he will not support any new spending for green energy investments, or tax increases for the wealthy or corporations to pay for it, until the next consumer spending report for the US is released. July.
“Let’s wait until that comes out, so we know we’re on a path that’s not going to be inflationary,” Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval.
Democrats were pushing to seal a deal on a reduced measure by August, before the Senate leaves town for its annual month-long recess, to stave off increases in health insurance premiums that are scheduled for that month. Further delays could also make it harder to pass the bill through a partisan vote before the fiscal year deadline of September 30.
Manchin told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he is only willing to support a proposal to lower prescription drug prices, as well as a temporary two-year extension of state drug subsidies. Affordable Care Act to help keep health insurance costs from rising this year.
“It’s not wise to do the other thing at this point,” he said Friday, referring to the climate provisions Democrats are seeking.
The cracks in the negotiations became apparent on Wednesday when Manchin, responding to the latest skyrocketing inflation figures, complained that more public spending would only push prices higher and that “leaders in Washington” needed to pay attention to your warnings.
Democrats were depending on billions in additional revenue from a proposal that would have closed tax loopholes to offset the cost of the bill and reduce the deficit, as Manchin had insisted. But Manchin backed away from his earlier support for that corporate tax increase, according to a Democrat briefed on the conversations between him and Schumer.
Environmentalists see the legislative package as the last chance for meaningful climate action in the next decade, which scientists have warned is a critical window for action. Top climate hawks in Congress responded by calling on President Joe Biden to take executive action to fight climate change.
“With legislative weather options now closed, now is the time for executive Beast Mode,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) tweetedpresenting a list of steps he said Biden should take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It is unclear whether such action would survive a legal challenge. The 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, for example, recently cut the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases.
Democrats will now be forced to choose whether to accept the stripped-down, health-care-focused proposal that Manchin has backed, or scrap the effort altogether. They need all 50 Senate Democrats to agree to pass a bill under the budget “reconciliation” process that will allow them to sidestep a GOP filibuster.
“If we can’t move forward as we hoped, we need to save as much of this package as possible,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “The expression that failure is not an option is overused, but failure really is not an option here.”
This round of negotiations was a repeat after Manchin withdrew his support late last year for the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, which Biden had endorsed.
Manchin has been negotiating with Schumer for a reduced domestic spending package totaling about $1 trillion, half of which would go to deficit reduction.
The negotiations were part of a long-awaited push to deliver on promises that won Democrats the House, Senate and White House in 2020.
Despite the breakdown in negotiations, which have dragged on in various stages for more than a year, Manchin insisted on Friday that he is still open to a deal.
“We can come back on September 1st and pass this legislation, if it is good legislation,” Manchin said.
“I want climate, I want energy policy,” he said.