Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) stood up for himself and his constituents Monday, responding to the White House, which put him on blast for saying he could not support President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill.
"They figured surely to God we can move one person. We surely can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough that they'll just say, 'OK, I'll vote for anything,'" the lawmaker told a local radio station, according to The Hill.
"Well, guess what? I'm from West Virginia. I'm not from where they're from and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they'll be submissive, period," Manchin said.
Manchin gave these remarks during a radio interview with West Virginia MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval, following his announcement Sunday that he will not vote for Biden's spending and climate agenda. The spending bill, which was passed by the House earlier this year, is not supported by any Republicans, and Democrats need "yes" votes from all 50 of the senators in their caucus to advance it.
After Manchin said he could not vote for the bill, citing his concerns over rising inflation and government debt, White House press secretary Jen Psaki released a blistering statement Sunday accusing the West Virginian of reversing his position and breaching commitments made to Biden.
"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," the White House said.
Responding to the White House statement, Manchin said, "I figured they would come back strong."
Making a point not to criticize the president directly, Manchin explained he was at "wits' end" after being "willing to work and listen and try" to reach a compromise he could support. He suggested White House staff had leaked negative information about him and that had poisoned his efforts to reach a good-faith compromise.
"They know the real reason, what happened. ... It's staff-driven. I understand it's staff. It is not the president. This is staff. And they drove some things, and they put some things out, that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is," Manchin said, without providing more detail.
The Senate adjourned Saturday without Democrats meeting their self-imposed Christmas deadline to vote on the Build Back Better bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday declared that Democrats will vote on the social spending package early next year, taking a thinly veiled shot at Manchin in a letter to Senate Democrats.
“The Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television,” Schumer wrote.
But unless Democrats are willing to make the concessions Manchin has demanded, a vote on the $1.75 trillion spending bill today, tomorrow, next year, or any time Democrats only have a 50-50 majority in the U.S. Senate will meet the same fate: failure.
“They couldn’t get there, Hoppy,” Manchin said in Monday's radio interview. "They couldn’t take away all the social reforms that they’ve had pent up for years. I want social reforms to the point that has responsibility and has accountability.”
He added that whatever changes Democrats might consider should go through the committee process with public hearings, which would further delay a vote on the bill.
“Don’t you think maybe a committee should put eyes on it, have hearings where the public can see what the differences may be between Democrats or between Democrats and Republicans? That’s what hearings are for. And then make the decision,” Manchin said.