Manchin, Sanders go toe-to-toe over Democrats' spending plans

"I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs," Manchin says. "No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that."
Manchin on Oct. 7, 2021
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders are sparring over the contents of the Democrats' budget reconciliation bill that could cost up to $3.5 trillion.

The stark policy differences between the two senators have erupted into full view following an op-ed from Sanders in a West Virginia newspaper about the reconciliation bill.

"Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending, and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs," Manchin said. "No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that."

In the op-ed, Sanders emphasized that the Democrats need 50 votes in the 50-50 Senate to move the reconciliation bill past the finish line. He noted that Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema are not on board with the current version of the proposal.

"I believe that now is the time, finally, for Congress to stand up for working families and have the courage to take on the big money interests and wealthy campaign contributors who have so much power over the economic and political life of our country," Sanders wrote.

"This is a pivotal moment in modern American history," he wrote. "We now have a historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few."

Reacting to the op-ed in West Virginia's Charleston Globe and Mail, Manchin referred to Sanders as an "out-of-stater" who is telling West Virginia what to support.

"This isn't the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state," Manchin said in a statement on Friday. 

Manchin has reportedly informed the White House that he wants a work requirement attached to the child tax credit in the reconciliation bill along with a $60,000 income cap per household. These proposals are drawing criticism from progressives such as New York Rep. Mondaire Jones.

This year, the Democrats expanded the child tax credit in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, a pandemic stimulus bill. For the first time, parents without income to report can qualify to receive a credit of up to $3,600 per child depending on the child's age range. The IRS is also for the first time sending out automatic advance payments of the child tax credit. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Democratic leaders are seeking to make the expansion of the credit permanent. 

The West Virginia senator has also objected to the Democrats' push to eliminate the Hyde Amendment in the reconciliation bill. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion services.

In the past, Manchin has been critical of creating a taxpayer-funded federal program to offer tuition-free community college. Democratic leaders in Congress have proposed including tuition-free community college in the legislation in addition to support for child care as well as universal pre-K.

Manchin recently said that Biden and the Democrats' spending priorities could lead to an "entitlement mentality" in the U.S.

"Respectfully, Senator Sanders and I share very different policy and political beliefs," Manchin said in September. "As he and I have discussed, Senator Sanders believes America should be moving towards an entitlement society while I believe we should have a compassionate and rewarding society."

Biden has acknowledged that the reconciliation bill would have to be up to $1 trillion less in order to gain the support of all 50 Democrats in the split Senate. Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi haven't said which proposed initiatives they would be open to removing from the legislation to lower the cost. 

Manchin has said Congress should hold off on the reconciliation bill, citing rising inflation and the supply chain delays hurting several industries.