Sen. Joe Manchin cautioned Democrats about going “too far left” by loading the $1.75 trillion social spending plan with progressive policies that aren’t resonating with Americans.
“I believe in the president and I still do,” the Democrat from West Virginia, who holds the key to passing President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda in the Senate, said Thursday on CNN.
“We just have to work together. We can’t go too far left. This is not a center-left or a left country. We are a center, if anything a little center-right country ... And we ought to be able to recognize that,” he said.
“And all my friends on the left, to progressives or liberals, whatever, I said, I’m not. I always say that I’m a responsible West Virginia Democrat, and I am fiscally responsible and socially compassionate. I think most people in the middle feel that way,” Manchin continued.
Manchin was reacting to comments from Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who on Wednesday told the New York Times that “nobody elected [Biden] to be FDR” — a reference to the sweeping policy changes the president is seeking in his spending bill.
Spanberger was expressing her and other Democrats’ frustrations over the party’s defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial election and the surprising cliffhanger in New Jersey’s governor’s race as she urged her party to concentrate on kitchen-table issues that will help struggling American families.
The senator, who has objected to many of the progressive programs in the spending bill, said Democrats have to be realistic about what they can accomplish.
“Don’t force basically something that is not going to happen to make people believe it will,” Manchin told CNN, raising alarms about rampant spending and fears of inflation spiraling out of control.
“People were scared to death in West Virginia about the high rising cost of gasoline, of food, now of utilities. The basic needs of life are going up and making more of a burden on [people] -- no matter how much money we send out,” he said.
Manchin’s opposition to Biden’s spending plan, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), makes it highly unlikely the Senate will have the votes to pass the package, even if Democrats manage to ditch the 60-vote filibuster and use reconciliation, which would require a simple majority in the 50-50 chamber.
Some Democrats felt the outcome in Virginia could have been different if Biden’s Build Back Better plan and the bipartisan infrastructure deal had been passed by Congress.
Others, like Spanberger, believed Democrats were reaching too far and should have focused on pocketbook issues that hard-pressed Americans are dealing with amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were so willing to take seriously a global pandemic, but we’re not willing to say, ‘Yeah, inflation is a problem, and supply chain is a problem, and we don’t have enough workers in our workforce,’” Spanberger told the New York Times. “We gloss over that and only like to admit to problems in spaces we dominate.”
She said voters elected Biden to oust former President Donald Trump but did not give him a wide-ranging mandate.
“Nobody elected him to be FDR, they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos,” Spanberger said.
Republican Glenn Youngkin staged a dramatic come-from-behind victory to beat Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.
In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy hung on to retain his seat despite a surprising challenge by Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a contest that was decided by roughly 35,000 votes.