Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” spending plan got a boost last week with the House passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure component. Still, the much larger and more controversial budget reconciliation bill remains stuck in neutral. The budget bill has been arguably reduced from an initial price tag of $3.5 trillion to somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 to 2 trillion because of the objections of moderate Democrats, perhaps most notably Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Sources now report that Manchin may withhold his vote from any version of the budget reconciliation bill until next year because of concerns about the surging price inflation affecting all Americans. Axios reports that Manchin has stated that he prefers that the Senate use the remaining days in the current session running into December to work on other legislative issues.
Manchin posted a tweet Wednesday indicating that the threat from record inflation is not “transitory” and is continuing and getting worse. He cited surging food and gas prices as indications of the “economic pain” the “inflation tax” is causing Americans.
Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have shown concern that Manchin and fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would hold the Senate back from passing the budget reconciliation bill. The Democrats control exactly 50 votes and the vice president’s tie-breaking vote. The party cannot lose even a single member’s vote if a final version is presented on the Senate floor.
48 Democrats and two independents caucus with the Democrats, Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). No Republicans are expected to vote for any contemplated version of the reconciliation bill.
Meanwhile, the federal budget is controlled by a continuing resolution from the Trump administration, which expires again in December. Without a new spending bill of some fashion, Congress faces the risk of a federal government shutdown. The national debt ceiling will also become a live issue again in December, potentially providing Manchin with even more leverage over progressive Democrats.