On Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) expressed frustration over conservative Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-West Virginia) declaration that the Build Back Better Act is “dead,” and called out the senator for his luxurious lifestyle.
For months, progressives have been advocating for the passage of the Build Back Better Act, which includes key proposals to expand the U.S. social safety net. But on Tuesday, Manchin told CNN: “What Build Back Better bill? There is no, I mean, I don’t know what you all are talking about.”
“No, no, no, it’s dead,” Manchin went on, when asked if he had been participating in negotiations surrounding the bill.
In response, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that the bill contains vital social safety net proposals that would help public housing residents. “Seniors, kids, and people with disabilities in my community have been sleeping with bubble jackets on in 18 degree nights, despite paying rent, because the [New York City Housing Authority] funding to fix their heating and capital needs is in BBB,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Where should I direct them to wait out the cold? Manchin’s yacht?” she continued.
The version of the bill passed by the House in November contained about $65 billion for public housing, funding that housing advocates say is desperately needed to repair public housing in the U.S. The bill’s price tag, which was fully paid for with offsets, was $1.75 trillion – nearly the exact price tag that Manchin fought for.
Manchin dealt a deadly blow to the bill in December when he said that there wouldn’t be a path forward for the legislation. But progressives have still been advocating for the bill’s passage, which they say is necessary and urgent.
“Public housing residents have endured devastating fires, the cost of insulin and other prescription drugs continue to crush working people, and parents are desperate for child care support. This desperately needed relief cannot be delayed any longer,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) last week. She urged the Senate to pass the bill before March 1.
But as advocates for expanding the social safety net have pointed out, it’s not in Manchin’s personal interest to pass the bill, regardless of its potential to decrease poverty and elevate lower- and middle-income Americans.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, Manchin’s campaign raised nearly $300,000 from corporate and wealthy donors in the days after he killed the bill. This is about a fifth of the $1.5 million his campaign raised between October and December, and the most his campaign has ever raised in one quarter, according to campaign finance expert Derek Willis.
Many of these donations came from companies that would have been directly impacted by proposals in the Build Back Better Act, like natural gas company Cheniere Energy. He also got thousands of dollars from Republican mega-donors like billionaire Ken Langone, who supported Donald Trump in 2016.
Manchin’s yacht – and the Maserati Levante he drives – were thrust into the public view when West Virginia climate activists confronted the senator, on separate occasions, as he was negotiating the Build Back Better Act. It’s unclear exactly where Manchin got the funds to afford such a luxurious lifestyle, but much of his wealth comes from his stock in the coal company that he founded in the 1980s.
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