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INTERVIEW: Joe Manchin says he’s ‘very much concerned’ about inflation and the national debt. He’s not committing to Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending plan yet.

Sen. Joe Manchin says he’s concerned about rising inflation and the national debt.
“We have to be fiscally responsible,” the West Virginia Democrat told Insider.
Manchin didn’t rule out backing a $3.5 trillion party-line spending plan after another moderate came out against it.

 

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he hasn’t decided whether to back the $3.5 trillion price tag of a planned Democratic-only spending package, a major priority of President Joe Biden’s.

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The key Democratic moderate said in a Friday interview that several factors would weigh into his decision, among them the increasing cost of goods and the nation’s growing debt pile. The price of gasoline, used cars, trucks, and other services has shot up as the economy started reopening and run into various crimps in supply chains.

“I’m very much concerned about inflation in our country,” Manchin told Insider, stressing how much he’s been focused on infrastructure spending and its potential costs. “I’m concerned about the debt that we’re carrying and our ability to compete on a global basis … we have to be fiscally responsible.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona came out against the proposed price tag of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, although she committed to advancing what’s known as a budget resolution. Adopting that would pave the way for Democrats to start drafting the party-line bill, which can clear the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority instead of the 60 required for most legislation in the modern Senate to avert the filibuster.

Every Senate Democrat must stick together for the package to succeed, and Manchin is onboard for now. He told CNN on Thursday he would vote for the resolution, allowing Democrats to approve a social spending package on their own — possibly in September. He told CNN that he was “keeping an open mind” on the $3.5 trillion price tag.

The West Virginia Democrat told Insider he’s in constant communication with Sinema about her views. “We speak all the time,” Manchin said.
‘I’m not going to put any figures on anything’

Manchin touted the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, which will pour federal spending into roads, highways, bridges, broadband, and water. He was one of five Democratic negotiators who hashed out the plan with five Senate Republicans over the span of roughly a month. The plan has the full backing of Biden and top Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Its passage would set the stage for Senate Democrats to jumpstart the reconciliation process before they leave for the monthlong August recess. Manchin said his support will hinge on the plan’s contents, and didn’t rule out backing its substantial cost. Democrats want to stuff it with measures like free community college, affordable childcare, and national paid leave.

“We have a good piece of legislation that has a lot of good work,” he said. “I think out of respect for all my colleagues who’ve been working on the other budget resolution, we should give that a look and be able work on it in a really productive way.”

He added that he’s “not going to put any figures on anything” until he’s had a chance to review the full bill.

Still, Manchin suggested that his time has been overwhelmingly consumed by negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure deal, and said he hasn’t decided whether to back renewing a federal eviction ban that ends in a day. Democrats are rushing to pass a bill to renew it after Biden urged a last-minute extension.

“I’ve been wrapped up in this so much, I haven’t even seen” it, he told Insider about his work on infrastructure and his potential support for an eviction moratorium.

“We’re gonna take a very serious look at it,” he said.

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