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A crippling blow to legislative overreach

Sen. Joe Manchin deserves credit for stopping a breathtaking attempt to reshape our country


Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, arrives at a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

A crippling blow to legislative overreach
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Many of Joe Biden’s voters believed they were getting a return to normalcy. They saw in Biden a seemingly calm adult in the Democrat primary, one who would hopefully tack a different line than his more liberal challengers. After the election, with the Senate divided 50 to 50 and controlled only by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote to break a tie, the political landscape was arranged neatly to correspond with such hopes. But after the election, Democrats simply did not have the majorities necessary for the transformative change pursued by their political base.

It was wishful thinking to think that moderation would be the Biden Administration’s policy. Once in office, Biden did not tack for the center, but instead moved hard left. Biden chose committed ideologues for most posts and stoked racial grievances as an organizing principle of his domestic agenda, under the guise of equity. He likened his opponents to domestic terrorists, involving the FBI and other security agencies to discourage dissent, and now purposes to divide the country on the basis of immunization status with promises to prevent societal disruptions directed only at the vaccinated. And Biden labored to join the ranks of presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson with a sweeping extension of the federal government’s reach with his intentionally transformative cradle-to-grave “Build Back Better” plan.

On Sunday, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the very lonely “moderates” left in the Senate’s Democratic caucus, leveled a potentially crippling blow to that aspiration by publicly declaring his opposition to the plan. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Manchin said: “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no.”

Manchin had been clear for months in insisting that his main concerns were the cost of the package and its timing in the midst of historically high inflation. Those concerns hardened after the Congressional Budget Office provided a cost estimate shorn of the bill’s gimmicks showing the bill’s permanent cost to be well north of $4 trillion, far above Manchin’s stated limit of $1.75 trillion. This new estimate came the very same day that inflation hit nearly seven percent, putting the package in a slow death spiral.

More crucially, Manchin’s opposition also seems aimed at the bill’s transformative ambition itself. His statement decried the continued effort “to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill” and his Democrat colleagues for attempting to “dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable.” Those are honest and welcome words. The new incentives introduced by Build Back Batter to change the country are breathtaking.

The climate investments are designed to lay the groundwork for future mandates and energy hikes to meet climate targets. The universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds is designed to get children out of the home sooner into learning environments where they will learn ruling class narratives influenced by Critical Race Theory. And the massive expansion of the administrative state with every billion-dollar tranche of new funding is meant to exert additional supervision and control over the affairs of the American people.

It is not yet clear whether Manchin intends to support cheaper versions of the bill. Even at $1.75 trillion, the legislation would still endanger the economy, and inflation has risen to new levels even since Manchin set his limit. But what seems clear is that any compromise will no longer be transformative. Any surviving bill would still be costly and bad policy, perhaps, but no longer able to broadly reshape our country. And for that, Sen. Manchin deserves our thanks.

The unexpected demise of the Build Back Better plan should also serve as a great encouragement to American believers concerned with the progressive direction of the country under President Biden’s watch. Its defeat pierces through the suffocating fog of inevitability presented to the American people by the adverse cultural forces pressing against them. Just when you think America is on the brink of adopting European-style governance, a jolt of common sense re-enters the scene.

Nothing is ever as inevitable as it seems. A ruler’s “heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). God is in control, even of our nation’s political system, and there are likely many twists and turns planned for the days ahead to serve as the terrain for our faithfulness.


Russell Vought

Russ Vought is the president and founder of the Center for Renewing America and Citizens for Renewing America. Russ served as the 42nd director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Donald Trump. Prior to serving in the Trump administration, Russ spent nearly 20 years working in Washington, D.C., in Congress and with grassroots and public policy organizations. Russ graduated from Wheaton College in 1998 and from George Washington University Law School in 2004. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Mary, and two daughters, Ella and Porter.


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