Psaki Accuses Manchin Of Backtracking On Commitments Made To Biden Regarding Build Back Better Act

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki accused Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin of backtracking on commitments he made to President Joe Biden regarding the Build Back Better Act Sunday.

Manchin, who has been on the fence regarding the president’s social spending plan, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he cannot vote for the Build Back Better Act. While he’s consistently raised concerns regarding the bill’s price tag amid inflation problems, Sunday marks the first time he’s taken an official stance on not backing the bill.

The White House didn’t mince words in its lengthy response shortly after Manchin’s comments, with Psaki saying that Manchin was “committed” to supporting Biden’s bill “weeks ago.” The press secretary’s 700+ word statement is notable, as it marks the first time the administration has spoken so candidly – and sharply – regarding Manchin.

“Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances,” Psaki said. “Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith.'”

“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. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all,” Psaki continued in her statement. “Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. 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.”

Prior to Sunday’s blow up, both the administration and Manchin tended to tread lightly when discussing the ongoing Build Back Better talks. Psaki repeatedly declined to negotiate through the press and often wouldn’t provide specifics regarding discussions between Manchin and Biden.

With the self-imposed deadline to pass the legislation by Christmas drawing near, the White House in recent weeks had ramped up its efforts to get Manchin on board. Publicly, both the White House and Manchin declined to say much about the talks, with the administration calling one call made last week “good” and Manchin simply noting he was “engaged” with Biden.

Manchin, in a statement of his own, issued after speaking with Fox News, said his “concerns” surrounding the legislation “have only increased as the pandemic surges on, inflation rises and geopolitical uncertainty increases around the world.” He listed the national debt, inflation, and a rise of COVID-19 as some of the reasons he can’t back Biden’s bill.

Psaki reiterated the administration’s stance on the Build Back Better Act in her statement, saying it will “have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures.” She addressed some of Manchin’s concerns and claimed “the plan is fully paid for” and will reduce “the deficit in the long run.” (RELATED: Over 60% Of Americans Say Biden’s Policies Are To Blame For Accelerating Inflation)

“The Congressional Budget Office [CBO] report that the Senator cites analyzed an unfunded extension of Build Back Better,” Psaki said, referring to the most recent CBO score that speculates on the cost of Biden’s bill if various provisions became permanent. “That’s not what the President has proposed, not the bill the Senate would vote on, and not what the President would support. Senator Manchin knows that: The President has told him that repeatedly, including this week, face to face.”

Psaki said the administration will continue to press Manchin “to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.” Her pointed statement ended by noting that Manchin “will have to explain” his choice to families and children around the country.

“In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine,” Psaki said. “He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need. 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.”

“The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year,” the statement concluded.