West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin on Sunday hailed the legislation he almost killed off, calling the rewritten $739bn bill he agreed to last week to pay down US debt and tackle the climate crisis “great for America”.
Manchin, on a tour of all five Sunday morning TV politics talk shows, told CBS’s Face the Nation that the energy and climate deal he’s now supporting will tackle inflation because it will be “aggressively producing more energy, to get more supply, to get the prices down”.
Republicans charge that the deal would in fact add to inflation, currently running at a 40-year-high.
But the centrist Democrat said he hoped his Senate colleagues would “take a good look at the bill”, which also controversially boosts planet-heating fossil fuels, an industry that has made Manchin very wealthy.
“They wanted more energy, I want more energy, we’re going to be producing more energy. There’s an agreement that we’re going to be drilling and doing more than we can to bring more energy to the market that reduces prices. They like that,” he said of Republicans.
Manchin reiterated to Fox News that he believes the bill would not raise inflation, while saying that previous Biden spending packages he’d supported, including last year’s $1.9tn American Rescue Plan, had done just that.
“I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again,” Manchin said.
He once again declined to say if he’d back Joe Biden for re-election in 2024.
“Everybody’s worried about the election. That’s the problem. It’s the 2022 election, 2024 election. I’m not getting involved in that,” Manchin told ABC’s This Week. “Whoever is the president, that’s my president. Joe Biden is my president right now,” he added.
Manchin agreed on a deal with Senate majority leader and fellow Democrat Chuck Schumer last Wednesday, announcing an expansive $739bn package, that had eluded them for months, that addresses healthcare and the climate crisis, raising taxes on high earners and corporations and reducing federal debt.
The bill replaces the $3.5tn Build Back Better flagship infrastructure and social support legislation that Manchin crushed last fall and the reduced $1.75tn version that he rejected in December, then was renegotiating, then caused to suffer a near-death experience just weeks ago when he turned away from that too.
The new legislation, now called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, could pass the Senate this week, although it is not a done deal and Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has not yet committed.
“Senator Sinema is my dear friend…She has an awful lot in this piece of legislation, the way it’s been designed as far as…letting Medicare go ahead and negotiate for lower drug prices,” Manchin said, referring to the government health insurance program for older Americans and people with disabilities.
“Also, basically, when she said … ‘we’re not going to raise taxes,’ I agree with that,” he added.
As a budget-related bill, Democrats aim to be able to use the so-called reconciliation process to pass it with a simple majority in the Senate, which would need all 50 Democratic senators in the 100-seat chamber and the swing vote of US vice-president Kamala Harris to pass.
“I sure hope so,” Manchin told CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning, when asked if the Senate would vote to approve the bill before they go on summer recess at the end of the week.
It’s “a great opportunity. It’s not a Democrat bill, it’s not a Republican bill, it’s definitely not a ‘green’ bill, it’s a red, white and blue bill,” he told host Jake Tapper.
Manchin appeared to walk away from the legislation earlier this month on inflation concerns, enraging supporters of climate action and his own colleagues on Capitol Hill. He has repeatedly thwarted his own party and was seen as jeopardizing world climate goals and, at home, Democratic political fortunes, while himself making millions in the coal industry.
He refused to support more funding for climate action and came out against tax raises for wealthy Americans to pay for it.
“There were things in there I considered could be considered inflammatory…inflation is the biggest challenge we have in our country,” he said on Sunday.
Then, he added, “we re-engaged” in negotiations.
There was relief among Democrats and climate experts last week, and a sense of turning a corner if the bill passes, both for climate action and the performance of the beleaguered Biden administration, despite the reduced bill.
Manchin hailed Biden.
“You do not do anything of this size without the president,” he saidthanking Biden for his support in the negotiations.
The bill includes $369bn, especially tax credits to encourage renewable energy production that gets the US close to its planet-heating emissions reductions target of a 50% cut by 2030, and support for purchasing electric cars.