LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A moderate U.S. Senator announced Sunday he will not vote to pass President Biden’s $2 trillion economic package, known as the “Build Back Better Plan.” Arkansas lawmakers were divided on party lines in their reaction to the news.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has long indicated he was wary of the administration’s plan, which includes wide-ranging economic provisions that would address many sectors. Manchin spoke to Fox News on Sunday and confirmed he won’t for it, and he released a statement shortly after reiterating that.
“I cannot vote to continue with this legislation,” Manchin said. “I just can’t.”
Manchin said the decision came down to inflationary concerns and the upcoming spread of the new COVID-19 omicron variant.
“There’s a lot of good, but that bill is a mammoth piece of legislation,” Manchin said.
In Arkansas, legislators’ responses matched the partisan divide that largely defines the country’s politics in 2021. Democrats called it a missed opportunity, while Republicans called it a win ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
“I am both excited and relieved that the ‘Build Back Broken Plan,’ Joe Biden’s massive spending plan, appears to be dead,” said State Sen. Trent Garner (R).
Garner said he shares the same inflationary concerns as Manchin. Inflation increased to 6.8% in November, its highest mark this millennium, according to national statistics.
“It’s time now for us to get back to those Conservative fiscal roots,” Garner said.
Republicans opposing the legislation pointed to climate change and gender identity assistance provisions as just a couple of parts that are not worth the price tag. Garner said he lost faith in the legislation quickly after reading about it.
“The more I learned about it, the more I read stories about it, there would be some new subsection that was just as terrible as the last part,” Garner said.
State Rep. Monte Hodges (D) pointed to several key elements of the legislation as reasons why Arkansans would receive aid. An expanded child tax credit would financially benefit around 90% of Arkansans, Hodges said, and lowered insulin prices would help the 12% of adult Arkansans the CDC identified as diabetic.
“How do you explain that?” Hodges said. “They’re voting against your best interests. Can you imagine paying thousands of dollars a month for insulin when you could pay $35?”
Democrats said Republicans’ monetary concerns were disingenuous, noting there were no qualms with Congress approving a $770 billion defense bill that was more expensive than what Biden proposed. Hodges said the argument against the bill is based on partisanship.
“Why would you not want to move forward rather than taking 10 steps backward?” Hodges said.
Congresspeople will return to Washington, D.C., next month, where they will decide whether to bring the legislation to a vote or separate elements into different bills.