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Sen. Joe Manchin

Appearing on Fox News last Sunday, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia declared that he remains a “no” vote on the Build Back Better Act of 2021 — a declaration that has infuriated many of his fellow Democrats. The centrist senator cited the cost of the bill and worries about inflation as reasons why he isn’t supporting the bill, but according to HuffPost reporters Tara Golshan and Arthur Delaney, he has privately said that he doesn’t trust poor people to use money wisely.

“In recent months,” Golshan and Delaney report, “Manchin has told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children, according to two sources familiar with the senator’s comments. Continuing the child tax credit for another year is a core part of the Build Back Better legislation that Democrats had hoped to pass by the end of the year. The policy has already cut child poverty by nearly 30 percent.”

The reporters add, “Manchin’s private comments shocked several senators, who saw it as an unfair assault on his own constituents and those struggling to raise children in poverty. Manchin has also told colleagues he believes that Americans would fraudulently use the proposed paid sick leave policy, specifically saying people would feign being sick and go on hunting trips, a source familiar with his comments told HuffPost.”

President Joe Biden and Democrat in Congress have spent months negotiating with Manchin and another very centrist Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, over the Build Back Better Act, trying to determine what it will take to get them to vote for it. But when Manchin appeared on Fox News on December 19, it was painfully obvious that their efforts to persuade him hadn’t worked.

In an official statement that followed that Fox News appearance, Manchin said, “My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face. I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight.”

Golshan and Delaney point out that according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 91 percent of low-income households have been using the child tax credit for essential things such as food, clothing and school supplies. That data, according to Golshan and Delaney, counters the claim that the poor frequently use financial help to buy drugs.

“The concern that some parents would use the benefit for drugs echoes years of conservative talking points on welfare,” Golshan and Delaney note. “During Barack Obama’s presidency, Republicans in Congress and state legislatures around the country sought to add drug testing to requirements to nutrition assistance, unemployment benefits and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides monthly cash benefits to poor parents.”

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