WASHINGTON — Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell found themselves on the same page Wednesday –saying Republican wins in Tuesday’s elections show voters are concerned about inflation — and Democrats need to be wary of President Biden’s massive spending plan.
Manchin (D-W.Va.) is a pivotal swing vote in Biden’s push for a $1.75 trillion social and environmental spending package, and he alone could kill the bill in the evenly divided Senate.
“When you look at southwestern Virginia and you saw the returns from southwest, that’s my entire state — so these are people I talk to all the time. And I knew what they were concerned about. They’re concerned about inflation, high costs making it more difficult for them,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“I think they spoke loud and clear at the voting booth. And I hope everybody listens.”
McConnell gave a similar message on the Senate floor, saying, “Washington Democrats have supercharged inflation” and that “Democrats should listen to the voters drop this reckless taxing and spending spree.”
Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial election despite Biden carrying the state by 10 percentage points last year. In New Jersey, GOP candidate Jack Ciattarelli is essentially tied with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in a state Biden won by 14 points.
Some Democrats, meanwhile, blamed their poor showing on Congress not approving Biden’s sprawling spending plans, including a $1.2 trillion Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) argued, “Democrats let Terry down. If we had done the infrastructure and reconciliation bills in October… it would have been extremely helpful to him.”
But Manchin said the opposite is true — potentially signaling fresh trouble for Biden’s stalled agenda.
“It’s just unbelievable when I see the country is divided as it is right now, when you see a blue state such as New Jersey, who we considered a blue state, and have over 2.2 million votes being cast, and they’re down to just maybe less than 100 separates them,” Manchin said.
“It’s unbelievable to see what went on in Virginia, and not just not just from the governor’s race, but all the way down that ticket, a good bit of changes happened.”
Manchin added: “Let’s start looking and working together, listening to our people back home. I’ve been listening to the people in West Virginia. They’re concerned about inflation. They really have been for a long time. And they talked to me, they said, ‘You know, I go to the grocery store and it takes me $30 more to buy what I did six months ago and I go to the filling station drive to go to work and I’m spending $20 more to fill the tank.
“They know that higher utility bills are coming out this winter and we need to be cognizant of that. We just can’t just say, ‘Well, we can do this, this and this and they’ll take care of it.’”
Manchin and fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have stalled Biden’s plan to ram through Democratic policies using special budget reconciliation rules. On Monday, Manchin said he may oppose the latest iteration of the plan because the White House used “budget gimmicks” that underestimate its cost and likely effect on inflation.
Republican victories on Tuesday also further complicate Biden’s agenda as conservatives gain momentum ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
“In a cycle like this, no Democrat is safe,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.). “Voters are rejecting Democrat policies that have caused massive price increases, opened our borders, and spurred a nationwide crime wave.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who is leading the GOP efforts to retake the Senate, told The Post, “the Democrats are in disarray. They have contested primaries next year and the environment is going to be right on our side.”
“What people forgot is people vote over issues that impact their families,” Scott said. “That’s why they vote… So you’ve got to have a message on how you’re going to help people in this country… and the issues that people care about.”
But putting on a brave face, Democratic leaders said they would press forward with Biden’s spending plans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday resurrected a provision that Manchin opposes — federally subsidized paid parental and family leave — as House Democrats draft Biden’s spending bill. New York-areas Democrats also are looking to include in the final bill a repeal of the $10,000 “SALT cap” on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes, which could dramatically increase the bill’s cost.
As proposed last week, Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending framework included $555 billion for environmental programs, $400 billion to fund universal preschool and cap child care costs at 7 percent of income for most families and $200 billion to extend the enhanced child tax credit for families that earn up to $150,000 — from $2,000 to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for those under six.
That edition of the plan also included $150 billion for home health care for the elderly and people with disabilities through Medicaid, $150 billion for housing including 1 million new “affordable” rental units, $130 billion in new Obamacare subsidies, $90 billion in racial and gender “equity” initiatives, $40 billion for higher education grants and $35 billion to expand Medicare to include the cost of hearing aids.