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Manchin says he's a 'no' on Biden's Build Back Better legislation, puncturing hopes for its passage

The White House fired back, saying that just days ago, Manchin submitted an outline to Biden for a bill that “was the same size and scope” as Biden’s framework.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Sunday that he will not vote for President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act, deflating Democrats' hopes of passing the nearly $2 trillion legislation to transform the nation's social safety net in the new year.

"I've always said this, Bret, if I can't go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for and I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't," Manchin, a key centrist, told host Bret Baier on "Fox News Sunday."

"This is a no on this legislation," he said. "I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there."

Before he made his announcement, Manchin relayed his plan to the White House and to Democratic leaders earlier Sunday, a source familiar with his thinking said. He alerted them through a staff member, a second Democratic source said, less than an hour before his appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki fired back in a statement.

"On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President's framework, and covered many of the same priorities," Psaki said. "If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator's colleagues in the House and Senate."

She said the administration will "continue to press Manchin to see if he will reverse his position yet again."

"Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot," Psaki said.

The Senate adjourned early Saturday, with Democrats missing their self-imposed Christmas deadline to vote on the social spending package. The House passed a version of the legislation last month.

In a statement last week, Biden said he had "a productive call" on Thursday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after having met with Manchin, but he also emphasized the lengthy negotiating process that lies ahead.

Manchin said Sunday: "I have tried everything I know to do, and the president has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with. He knows I've had concerns and the problems I've had."

Manchin reiterated his concerns about the legislation in a statement after his appearance on Fox News, citing its cost and inflation.

"My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face," he said. "I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight."

If the bill is enacted, he said, it will "risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains."

Congressional progressives quickly criticized his remarks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Manchin is "going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia."

"We've been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month," Sanders said. "But if he doesn't have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no, in front of the whole world."

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said separately on "State of the Union" that Manchin was "obstructing" Biden's agenda.

The legislation includes a monthly per-child cash payment of up to $300 for most parents, child care funding, universal pre-K, an extension of Affordable Care Act subsidies and Medicare hearing benefits. It would also commit $555 billion to combat climate change, the largest such effort in U.S. history.

The bill would be financed by tax increases on upper earners and corporations, more IRS enforcement and savings on prescription drugs through empowering Medicare to negotiate prices for certain medications.

Manchin, a linchpin of the 50-50 Senate, lashed out last week at reporters who pressed him about his concerns, such as the inclusion of child tax credit payments, which are set to expire at the end of the year.

Democrats have shaped much of the current version of the bill around the demands of Manchin, who represents a ruby-red state that Biden lost by 39 points last year. Democrats indicated this month that other measures, such as guaranteed paid leave and the $80,000 cap on federal deductions for state and local taxes, were likely to be removed or diluted to win his vote.

Republicans had sought to sway Manchin by requesting a Congressional Budget Office estimate of a revised version of the Build Back Better bill. The agency estimated that it would add $3 trillion to the deficit from 2022 to 2031 on an assumption that all temporary programs would be extended without being paid for, although the current version does not include extensions for the provisions.

Some Republicans praised Manchin.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said In a statement, "I very much appreciate Senator Manchin's decision not to support Build Back Better, which stems from his understanding of the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the bill."

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in a statement, "President Biden's mega-spending bill is dead and Joe Manchin put the nail in the coffin," adding that the development should serve as "a reality check to wild-eyed progressives that they are not the mainstream."

Before Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure law last month, progressives had pushed to link it to the social spending plan over concerns that passing the infrastructure bill first would weaken their leverage in shaping and advancing the Build Back Better bill.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement that Manchin has "betrayed his commitment not only to the President and Democrats in Congress but most importantly, to the American people."

Jayapal noted last week that Biden had promised progressives that he would be able to get 50 senators to support the Build Back Better bill.

A fellow progressive, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called out Democratic leaders for moving the infrastructure bill before the Build Back Better Act.

"When a handful of us in the House warned this would happen if Dem leaders gave Manchin everything he wanted 1st by moving BIF before BBB instead of passing together, many ridiculed our position," Ocasio-Cortez said in a series of tweets. "Maybe they'll believe us next time. Or maybe people will just keep calling us naïve."

CORRECTION (Dec. 19, 2021, 7:20 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of the host of "Fox News Sunday." He is Bret Baier, not Brett.