Joe Manchin Undecided on Biden's $3.5 Trillion Bill: 'We Should Start Paying for Stuff'

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia voiced significant concern and reservations about the $3.5 trillion budget plan supported by President Joe Biden and leading Senate Democrats, telling reporters that "we should start paying for stuff."

Manchin, a moderate Democrat from a conservative state, told reporters he was undecided about whether he would support the massive spending plan after it was unveiled this week. However, he said that there were no "red lines" and that he would "look at everything," suggesting he's open to considering the merits of the proposed legislation.

"We'll look at the proposal, look at the priorities they have for our country and basically look at how we're going to pay for it," Manchin told reporters Wednesday. "And if we have to—with tax adjustments being made—is it going to be globally competitive?"

After a reporter asked if the package needed to be "completely paid for," Manchin quickly responded, "I think we should start paying for stuff." The lawmaker stressed the growing national debt and concerns about inflation, raising concerns about the future generation of Americans.

Joe Manchin
Senator Joe Manchin told reporters he was undecided about whether he would support the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget plan after it was unveiled this week. Above, Manchin arrives for a bipartisan meeting on infrastructure legislation at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The senator also said he was "very, very disturbed" by some provisions in the proposal that would eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

"Because if they're eliminating fossils—and I'm finding out there's a lot of language in places they're eliminating fossils, which is very, very disturbing—because if you're sticking your head in the sand and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America and they want to get rid of it and thinking that's going to clean up the global climate, it won't clean it up all. If anything, it would be worse," he said.

As of 2019, West Virginia was the second highest coal-producing state in the U.S.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, announced the $3.5 trillion Democratic proposal on Tuesday evening. The spending would be in addition to a tentative $1 trillion infrastructure package that White House, Democratic and Republican negotiators continue to work toward passing.

The additional Democratic proposal is not expected to receive significant—if any—support from GOP lawmakers. Biden and Democrats instead aim to pass the larger spending package through the budget reconciliation process in the Senate. Because of the Senate's legislative filibuster rule, most bills require 60 votes to pass in the upper chamber of Congress, but the budget reconciliation process allows for budget-related legislation to pass with only a slim majority.

The current Senate is evenly split—with 50 Republicans and 50 members of the chamber's Democratic Caucus. Vice President Kamala Harris can cast deciding votes when legislation is tied, meaning that every Senate Democrat would need to support a large reconciliation proposal for it to pass in the upper chamber. Biden and Schumer will have to convince Manchin and several other moderate Democrats to back their package without compromising too much and losing the support of more liberal lawmakers, such as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The $3.5 trillion package includes plans to fund health care, education priorities and child care, which Democratic leaders and the White House argue fit under a broader definition of national infrastructure. Meanwhile, the smaller bipartisan $1 trillion proposal would focus on funding for bridges, roads and broadband internet—which fits more within the traditional definition of infrastructure.

Schumer said Wednesday that the massive budget reconciliation proposal would "allow us to pass the most significant legislation to expand, support and help American families since the New Deal—since the New Deal, this is generational, transformational change to help American families who need the help in this rapidly changing world." The Senate majority leader also said that the proposals would be paid for in "a robust way."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment on Manchin's remarks but did not hear back before publication.