Manchin says he didn’t pull a fast one on GOP with deal on Inflation Reduction Act

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Thursday pushed back on speculation around the timing of his agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on a mammoth partisan spending plan not long after Republicans voted with Democrats to advance a key bipartisan bill on semiconductors.

Manchin was pressed by reporters on a call Thursday over whether Democrats pulled “a fast one” on Republicans, given the timing of his announcement with Schumer to advance a bill dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes climate measures and tax reform provisions.

“No, you know, I sure hope they don’t feel that way. I mean, I understand that they are but I don’t know why,” Manchin told reporters. 

Manchin’s announcement came shortly after the chamber passed a scaled-down bill aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with China and semiconductor production in a 64-33 vote.

Senators had previously worked in a bipartisan fashion to craft an expanded version of the bill, but those plans fell apart after Republicans opposed the larger measure due to Democratic efforts to pass a partisan spending bill through a complex process known as budget reconciliation.

The budget maneuver, used by Senate Republicans in 2017 to advance then-President Trump’s signature tax law, would allow Democrats to pass legislation in the upper chamber without GOP support, bypassing a legislative filibuster.

However, Democrats would need the support of all their members in the 50-50 split Senate to secure passage, absent Republican buy-in.

Manchin, a key centrist holdout in spending talks, supported earlier provisions aimed at prescription drug cost reform. But he resisted to signing onto climate and tax provisions in the negotiations with Schumer at the time, following a recent report from the Labor Department showing inflation hit a four-decade high last month.  

Some Democrats were surprised by the recent announcement by Manchin. However, Republicans bristled with the news not long after, accusing Manchin of flip-flopping.

“Everything he said he was against, now he’s for,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the republicans who voted with Democrats, said on Thursday afternoon. “And I just wonder what the transaction was that got him to ‘Yes.’”

Cornyn said that while he doesn’t view the passage of the China competitiveness bill and Inflation Reduction Act as connected, he told reporters, “it does poison the well.”

“Things work around here, even though we’re political adversaries,” he also said. “There has to be some modicum of that when people tell you something, you can believe them and that’s pretty well eviscerated.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who also voted to pass the China competitiveness bill on Wednesday, told reporters the following day that he doesn’t regret his vote but is strongly opposed “to what they’re trying to do here with this massive tax bill.”

Asked by reporters if he thought Manchin behaved dishonestly, Daines added, “You have to ask Sen. Manchin that.” 

Top House Republicans have also been urging their members to vote against the China competitiveness bill following Manchin and Schumer’s announcement Wednesday. The lower chamber is voting on the semiconductor bill Thursday. 

Peter Sullivan contributed.