- Manchin “refused to take a call from White House staff” before his Build Back Better announcement, per Politico.
- Less than half an hour before his Fox News interview, Manchin told an aide to call the White House.
- Biden officials tried to intercept Manchin but were unsuccessful, according to the report.
Shortly before Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia made a bombshell appearance on “Fox News Sunday” where he announced his opposition to President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better legislation, he “refused to take a call from White House staff” despite their efforts to stave off his decision, according to a Politico report.
Less than half an hour before Manchin’s interview with host Bret Baier, the Mountain State lawmaker sent an aide to inform the White House and congressional leadership of his intentions.
As Manchin was preparing for his talk with Baier, there was trepidation and incredulity in White House at Manchin’s decision to spike the sweeping social-spending bill by sending an aide to tell administration officials of his soon-to-be public position, especially as talks appeared to be ongoing, according to the report.
When top Biden White House officials sought to reach the senator and speak with him directly, they were unsuccessful, according to a senior White House official who spoke with Politico.
“We tried to head him off,” the aide said, but the senator “refused to take a call from White House staff.”
According to the report, Manchin did not inform Baier beforehand that he’d be delivering the stunning statement regarding the legislation, which would establish universal pre-K, renew monthly child tax credit payments to families for another year, and tackle climate change, among other provisions.
Manchin began his interview by saying that he worked “diligently” with the White House and Democratic congressional leaders to move forward with the legislation, but said he couldn’t proceed any further.
“I’ve been working on this, meeting with — whether it’d be the president, President Biden, whether it’d be Majority Leader Schumer and his staff, whether it would be with Nancy Pelosi, all of my colleagues. I mean, from all different spectrums of the political spectrum, if you will, from the right to the left. I’ve done everything humanly possible,” he said.
He then spoke of inflation, the national debt, and the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus before delivering his position.
“If I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” he said.
“I just can’t. … I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” he emphasized.
Politico reported that Democrats in Congress found Manchin’s actions to be distasteful.
“Manchin didn’t have the courage to call the White House or Democratic leadership himself ahead of time,” a Democrat with knowledge of the situation told the publication.
‘Look, with Manchin you never know’
At the Biden White House, there is “a sense of betrayal” from Manchin, according to the report.
Just last week, Manchin said that he could support legislation “in the $1.75T ball park,” according to the same senior official, who stated that Manchin’s negotiation figure was “in writing.” Aides have reportedly discussed whether to disclose the document, according to Politico.
“Listen to what Manchin himself said all week,” the official said. “How many times did he say he ‘did not oppose’ the bill, just wanted to line up programs with pay fors?”
With Manchin’s action, Democrats are forced to regroup headed into an election year where they are facing serious political headwinds — forging ahead with a way to proceed with a bill that can both houses of Congress.
The question remains as to what sort of bill can proceed going forward in the evenly-divided Senate and with little GOP appetite for any of the spending plans that Democrats have sought for years, especially since Manchin continues to effectively hold veto power over Biden’s agenda headed into 2022.
“Look, with Manchin you never know,” the senior White House official told Politico. “I’ve never seen anything like this … The guy shook hands with the president. He made us a written offer on Tuesday that had holes but was doable. If he flipped away from that so quickly, maybe he can flip back.”
On Sunday, a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki called out Manchin for the abrupt shift in his stance regarding the bill.
“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.
“Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word,” she added.