If Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is comfortable blocking Americans from getting popular programs, then why didn’t he say so all along?
Instead, after months of negotiations he broke the news on "Fox News Sunday" that he "cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can’t…I can’t get there…This is a no."
With those words Manchin turned his back on President Biden and Congressional Democrats.
But he also turned his back on most Americans who support passage of the bill.
Seventy-six percent support the need for the government to put money into support for Medicaid home care for the elderly and disabled, according to the Morning Consult/Politico poll.
And 71% said having Medicare negotiate the price of prescription drugs, also in the bill, is a good idea.
Also, 75% said having Medicaid offer help to people with hearing loss is another good idea. And 65% supported the bill’s funding for affordable housing.
And then there is the child tax credit that has slashed child poverty. Americans want that trend to continue.
Fifty-three percent of voters backed extending the child tax credit in the bill, according to Morning Consult/Politico poll from earlier this month.
And then there are people who can’t vote and can’t be reached by pollsters – America’s children. My guess is that they understand universal pre-kindergarten, a central provision in the bill, is key to America’s future.
Overall, an NPR/Marist poll released earlier this month found 41% of Americans support it while 34% opposed it. The Morning Consult poll had a similar 7 percentage point margin, with 47% support and 40% in opposition.
But in both polls most Americans wanted this bill to pass.
Asking a politician to be faithful to the will of the American people is one thing.
Being honest goes beyond politics.
Democrats had every reason to think they were engaged in an honest negotiation with Manchin. Just last week the West Virginian personally submitted his own, trimmed down version of the Build Back Better bill, to Biden, according to the White House.
Previously, Manchin put pen to paper to lay out his design for the bill in a late July memo to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
And all along, he signaled to Democrats there was no need to tie passage of infrastructure legislation to the bill to the Build Back Better bill to improve the nation’s social safety net. He gave every sign that he was negotiating in good faith.
That’s why even moderate Democrats see Manchin’s behavior as "unacceptable," to quote Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.
Americans of all political stripes have every right to ask why Manchin betrayed the trust of his fellow congressmen and jumped to saying "No."
The number one concern cited by Manchin is the possibility that the bill will spur inflation. But economists agree the bill will not trigger inflation.
Goldman Sachs’ top economist, Jan Hatzius, reacted to Manchin’s rejection of the bill by cutting forecast for the nation’s economic growth. He lowered his forecast for economic growth in the U.S. from 3% in the first quarter of 2022 to 2%.
Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, said without the Build Back Better plan the economy slowdown will be "quick as families with children will lose a tax break."
An economic analysis by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School also concluded the bill "will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures," Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement after Manchin’s announcement.
But Manchin might be hitting the brakes because inflation is currently affecting the economy now.
And Manchin might be reluctant to support a bill with no bipartisan support since it is opposed by every Republican in the Senate.
The GOP caucus obviously has political reasons to oppose President Biden but like Manchin they claim to be focused on both the bill’s current cost as well as the possibility that elements of the plan could be extended resulting in a higher price tag than the Democrats are advertising.
But those concerns could be addressed in talks to shape the bill because some of the alarm is way off, unjustified or, as the New York Times put it, "wrong."
"Economic evidence strongly suggests Mr. Manchin is wrong," about the Biden plan having a negative impact on inflation and the economy in general, said a front page news analysis in The New York Times.
"A host of economist and independent analyses have concluded that the bill is not economic stimulus, and that it will not pump enough money into consumer pocketbooks next year to raise prices more than a modest amount," wrote Jim Tankersley of the Times.
The article also noted that Manchin voted for a COVID relief bill earlier this year that put $1.9 trillion immediately into the economy, with a far higher risk of causing inflation.
The economic reasons offered by Manchin as the basis for rejecting the Build Back Better bill just don’t fly.
And his claim that he is looking out for America because the bill will "dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable," don’t even get on the runway because the public is not stupid, and the Build Back Better plan is popular with the American people.