Manchin’s deal sparks criticism: W.Va. senator voices support for his decision

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Manchin’s deal sparks criticism: W.Va. senator voices support for his decision

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Congress Budget

FILE – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks to reporters outside the hearing room where he chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, at the Capitol in Washington, July 19, 2022. Manchin announced Wednesday, July 27, that he had reached an expansive agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer which had eluded them for months on health care costs, energy and climate issues, taxing higher earners and large corporations and reducing federal debt.

  • J. Scott Applewhite – staff, AP

Congress Budget

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., talks to reporters about the agreement reached with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that they had sought for months on health care, energy and climate issues, taxes on higher earners and corporations, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 28, 2022.

  • J. Scott Applewhite – staff, AP

    

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Wednesday defended his support of the Inflation Reduction Act and said he did not do a “reversal” of his stand on the legislation.

“I never walked away from anything in my life,” he said during a virtual press briefing from his home.

Manchin tested positive for COVID on Monday and has been quarantined, but said he is recovering well.

The Senator said he has endured criticism from many after he first rejected a pared down version of the Build Back Better bill then on Wednesday abruptly announced a deal had been struck to support the $739 billion package, which does include money for climate-related initiatives that he initially opposed.

The negotiated act includes a “historic” down payment on deficit reduction ($300 billion) to fight inflation, invests in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduces carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030 ($369 billion over the next 10 years).

The bill will also allow Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices and extend the expanded Affordable Care Act program for three years, through 2025 ($64 billion).

Money will be recouped, the act says, through a 15 percent corporate minimum tax ($313 billion), prescription drug pricing reform ($288 billion), IRS tax enforcement, with more personnel and updated technology, ($124 billion) and closing the “carried interest’ loophole ($64 billion).

Manchin had at first opposed the version that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was pushing because of the price tag and money related to climate change, saying he did not want to put more money into an economy in fear of driving up inflation.

But he said this negotiated version, because of the deficit reduction and lowering costs of prescription drugs, will help with inflation.

The energy part of the act addressees both fossil fuels and a gradual transition to renewables, but in a common sense way, he said.

“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.

The act will help with energy security by continuing to emphasize the need for fossil fuels as well as making federal permitting processes easier, including the permit process for natural gas pipelines.

Not only is the goal to be energy independent here, he said, but also to “backfill our allies with the cleanest fossil energy in the world.”

The act makes a “tremendous investment in the future of energy,” he said, calling it a “balance” that embraces fossil fuels as well as technologies for renewables.

“This is a bill that keeps the fossil fuel industry strong and the country strong…until new technologies will kick in as the market takes over eventually..,” he said of renewables becoming more affordable and feasible. “It is an all-in energy policy.”

Manchin also fired back at those who criticized the 15 percent minimum corporate tax.

“We are not raising taxes,” he said, explaining that many large corporations, which are supposed to be paying 21 percent, actually pay less that or even nothing. This provision requires them to pay at least 15 percent.

“That is the only tax we changed,” he said of the minimum percentage, and all big corporations should pay at least that.

But it was the accusation that he “flipped” or pulled a “reversal” that Manchin addressed the most strongly.

When negotiations were ongoing for a $1 billion-plus bill, he and his staff were working in good faith to reach an acceptable deal, he said.

However, that changed recently when the new inflation numbers were released.

Manchin said when he saw the 9.1 percent rise in inflation he and his staff “backed off” and took another look at what they were doing, not wanting to do anything that would make inflation worse.

“That put the brakes on it for me,” he said, and that is when the discussions with Schumer became “hot and heated” and “all hell broke loose.”

Manchin said he wanted to keep talking but “they turned the dogs loose and said I walked away.”

“I never reversed my position or walked away,” he said. “The things we were working on before” required a different approach, one that would make inflation a main concern.

He said he later passed Schumer in a hall, spoke to him, and the two agreed to talk again, but Manchin said he and his staff had never stopped working on it in hopes of finding something that works and actually help with inflation. That included cutting $400 billion to $500 billion from the bill he and Schumer had been working on.

Manchin suggested that anyone critical of the bill should take the time to read it.

“In normal times, both parties would come together on this,” he said, but now both Democrats and Republicans often refuse to support a solid bill because they are afraid it may make the other party look good.

Manchin also told a New York Times reporter on the call to tell her superiors to “just print the facts,” calling a headline that said he reversed position “very misleading.”

“This is a good piece of legislation,” he said. “It is American, not Republican or Democrat.”

With no Republicans likely to support the legislation, the reconciliation process will be used.

Manchin said the bill should be passed through that process, assuming all Democrats and the two independents are on board, before the Aug. 6 recess.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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