Asked about Build Back Better’s status on Tuesday, Manchin replied, “What Build Back Better bill? There’s no, I mean, I don’t know what y’all are talking about.”
Pressed by CNN whether he had any talks about the proposal, Manchin said, “No, no, no, it’s dead.”
When later asked to elaborate on his comment that the legislation is “dead”, the West Virginia Democrat said, “If they talk about the whole big package, it’s gone.” On possibly supporting a smaller package, he said, “We’ll see what people come up with. I don’t know.”
Since Senate Democrats control only a narrow 50-50 partisan divide, every member of their caucus is expected to support the legislation to pass through a process known as reconciliation, which would allow them to avoid a GOP filibuster.
This dynamic has given Manchin outsized influence over the process and the ability to shut down Build Back Better altogether if the rest of his party can’t find a way to bring him on board.
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hit out at Manchin for saying Build Back Better is “dead”.
“When you have a proposal that has the overwhelming support of the American people and it addresses the long-neglected crises facing working people, we can’t let that die,” he said. “And if Mr. Manchin chooses to side with corporate America on this issue, that’s his business. But for me, and I think millions of Americans, we need to fight for the needs of working families. .”
After Manchin’s statement in December that he did not support the proposal in its current form, Democrats had to significantly narrow the scope of their ambitions and instead expressed hope that they could still pass key elements of the plan even if it did. ultimately means having to go ahead with a much narrower package that would force them to sideline other priorities. President Joe Biden described the effort as passing “big chunks” of Build Back Better.
On Tuesday, Manchin clarified his concerns and priorities.
“My main concern is inflation. The high costs for everyone in my state and across the country that I hear about,” he said, “And also the geopolitical turmoil we have in Ukraine. It’s going to be a significant cost, some sooner rather than later. And on top of that: Covid. We have to see which direction Covid is going, and what effect it’s going to have on our economy. Those are always the driving forces.
Manchin told reporters on Monday that he still had not participated in any meetings on the future of Build Back Better, saying that “there have been no formal meetings, basically, sit-down meetings or things like that.”
“I said I’m open to talking to everyone, always have been,” he continued. “I just want to make sure we find a balance, and something that we can afford, and do it and do it right, whatever we do.”
CNN’s Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.