Biden suffers double Manchin stroke and another Covid winter

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Biden campaigned on the promise that he would be able to build consensus in Congress and end the pandemic, but Manchin’s defection could further undermine voters’ confidence in the president’s ability to lead. The moderate Democratic senator explained on Sunday that even after months of prolonged talks with Biden – with whom he said he was “wonderful to work with” – he couldn’t get over his fears that the nearly $ 2 trillion bill dollars won’t worsen inflation while Americans are in shock. prices everywhere, from groceries to the gas station. (Democratic supporters of the bill and White House officials have repeatedly rejected this logic, insisting that the legislation would reduce inflation over time.)

“I cannot vote to continue with this bill. I just cannot. I have tried everything humanly possible. I cannot do it,” Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday”. “It is a no to this legislation. I have tried everything I can do,” he said, adding that he could not explain the “gigantic bill” to voters in his state. ‘origin.

White House aides learned of Manchin’s decision from a member of his staff about 30 minutes before he appeared on television, CNN reported, and the White House issued an unusually sharp rebuke – personally signed by Biden – after that. which they presented as a reversal. of Manchin’s position in talks with the administration.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that Manchin presented the president with a “written outline” for the Build Back Better bill on Tuesday that was “of the same size and scope as the framework. of the President ”, covering“ many of the same priorities ”- giving hope that the two could reach a compromise. She noted that the West Virginia senator had promised to continue talks in the days to come.

“While his comments on FOX and his written statement indicate the end of this effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable turnaround in his position and a violation of his commitments to the President and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” he said. writes Psaki.

The economic and climate package includes a wide array of programs meant to help American families that Democrats were eager to talk about during next year’s election campaign, even though Republicans have already attacked them over the size of the bill. It includes universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, child care assistance, a federally funded paid family and sick leave program, and the extension of the enhanced child tax credit for another year. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate the price of certain drugs administered in a doctor’s office or purchased at a pharmacy. The bill includes tax increases on businesses and wealthy households in order to increase income to pay for new benefits.

Democrats predicted this using the budget process known as reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes to get the vote, meaning no Republican support is needed.

Despite Manchin’s announcement, the Senate will vote on the legislation early next year anyway to allow members to make their positions known, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday morning, adding that Democrats will continue their efforts to adopt a version of the plan.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who speaks with Democrats and managed the package as chairman of the budget committee, demanded that Manchin be held accountable to his constituents.

“He’s going to have a lot of explanation for the people of West Virginia as to why he doesn’t have the courage to go after the drug companies to cut the cost of prescription drugs; why he doesn’t ready to expand his health care home, ”Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on“ State of the Union, ”revealing some of the benefits of the bill and how they would have helped impoverished West Virginia.

In another sign of open war within the party, Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement on Sunday that Manchin had “betrayed his commitment not only to the president and the Congressional Democrats, but most of all, to the American people. “

“He regularly brags that he is a man of his word, but he can no longer say it. West Virginia and the country see clearly who he is,” Jayapal said.

Negotiating from a weak position

But Democrats negotiated with a weakened hand, counting the days until the midterm elections which are likely to favor the GOP based on historical models and the president’s low approval ratings. Republicans have relentlessly targeted the bill as the latest example of Democrats’ sprawling spending and Biden’s precarious position in the polls have raised questions about the extent of his tenure to make massive changes to the Net. nation’s social security.

A Monmouth University survey in early December showed broad support for the Build Back Better plan – with 61% in favor of legislation. But polls have also shown Americans are worried about how Biden’s policies are affecting the economy. Three-quarters of Americans said they were worried about the state of the economy in their own community, according to a CNN poll released last week.
Among the results of most concern for the White House in the CNN poll, only 30% of Americans said Biden’s policies had had a positive impact on economic conditions; 45% said his policies had made the economy worse and a quarter said they had had no impact. About 8 in 10 people said the rising cost of food and other daily problems was a major problem for the country’s economy. And consumer price inflation rose 6.8% in November, a level not seen in 39 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

White House officials and Progressive Democrats have vigorously rebuffed claims by Manchins and Republicans that the bill would increase inflation. The White House quoted a recent report from the Penn Wharton Budget Institute on Sunday that said the legislation “will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short run and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures.”

But that didn’t stop Manchin from raising the issue – much to the delight of Republicans who hoped inflationary fears would torpedo the bill.

“Christmas has come early for all the hard-working Texas families who would have had to pay higher taxes, child care costs and pump prices if Build Back Bankrupt had passed,” Republican Senator John tweeted. Cornyn from Texas, reacting to Manchin’s announcement. .

But Manchin’s stance has led Goldman Sachs to revise its US economic outlook, with economists at the Wall Street firm saying in a research report that failure to pass Build Back Better legislation “has negative implications for growth.” . The company now expects GDP to grow at an annualized rate of 2% in the first quarter, down from 3% previously, citing the “apparent disappearance” of the legislation.

Preparing for a Covid-19 Christmas wave

As he announced his opposition to the Build Back Better bill on Sunday, Manchin said Washington officials should focus more on the arrival of the Omicron variant, arguing that it is the thing “we should all be on top of. direct our attention “.

It was a grim reminder for a White House that had hoped to get through the worst of the pandemic now that things are likely to get worse before they get better, further frustrating already tired Americans as they head into an election year.

Noting how quickly Omicron cases are doubling, Dr Anthony Fauci warned on Sunday that the United States was heading for “a tough few weeks or months as we approach winter.” Only about 61.4% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And only 29.5% of them are boosted, which experts say provides the best protection.
Biden administrator considers potentially brutal change in messages regarding end of pandemic

The country’s top infectious disease specialist told Tapper that the increase in cases would put a strain on hospital systems, especially in places with low vaccination rates.

He put further pressure on Americans to get vaccinated – and if they want to be “optimally protected, be empowered,” he said, while stressing that the nation “cannot walk away. “other mitigation measures like masking and testing.

New CDC data released on Sunday showed unvaccinated people have a 20 times higher risk of dying from Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people who also received a booster dose. The data underscored the greater protection offered by boosters: Unvaccinated people are 14 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people.

Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey and Representative Jason Crow of Colorado all announced on Sunday that they had tested positive for Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated and boosted. All three reported mild symptoms.

Yet the rapid rise in Covid cases does not appear to deter Americans from their Christmas travel plans. Data from TSA checkpoints at the end of last week – including Thursday, Friday and Saturday – showed more than 2 million passengers were screened at U.S. airports every day, a threshold that is almost double of what those numbers were a year ago, but still below the pre-pandemic numbers of 2019.

Biden plans to meet with advisers on Monday for a briefing on the latest developments related to the Omicron variant ahead of a speech on Tuesday where he plans to issue what the White House has described as a “stern warning of what winter will look like for people. Americans who choose to remain unvaccinated. ”

It will be another sobering message the president must deliver after a year of disappointments for his administration as Americans head into the holiday season.


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