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West Virginians react to Manchin's opposition to Build Back Better

12/20/2021

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WCHS) Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is at the center of political attention after voicing his opposition to the Biden administration's Build Back Better plan.

The Build Back Better Act has many provisions, including free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, up to a $3,600 per family child tax credit and the ability for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

"If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it,” Manchin said in a news release on Sunday. “Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation.”

Mindy Salango, a diabetes patient advocate who works for West Virginia University Medicine, was sad to hear Manchin's stance on the bill.

"To get the news yesterday, I'll admit it was kind of a punch in the gut," Salango said.

Salango has been a Type 1 diabetic for 27 years. She was hoping to see the cost of insulin go down under Build Back Better.

"We've gone from my insulin costing $25 a month to now it being over $300 a vial. Most diabetics need three or four vials a month to survive," Salango said.

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, supports Manchin's decision. He said while there may be some good parts of the bill, the overall package, estimated at $1.75 trillion by the Biden administration, is too much.

"It adds costs. It's inflationary. It adds substantially to the deficit," Roberts said.

The actual cost of the bill is debated. Manchin was vocal about the cost, saying it costs more than the White House is saying.

"The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined the cost is upwards of $4.5 trillion, which is more than double what the bill’s ardent supporters have claimed. They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill," Manchin said.

Roberts believes it would hurt local businesses in Appalachia.

"This bill clearly raises business taxes, provides additional levels of regulatory burden and imposes many fines that are not currently in the law and in the regulations," Roberts said.

The United Mine Workers of America, which has a banner in Charleston thanking Manchin for past support, said Monday it disagrees with his position on this bill due to its protection of miners, and it hopes he reconsiders.

“The Build Back Better legislation includes several items that we believe are important for our members and their communities – some of which are part of the UMWA’s Principles for Energy Transition we laid out last spring," UMWA President Cecil Roberts said. "The bill includes language that would extend the current fee paid by coal companies to fund benefits received by victims of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung. But now that fee will be cut in half, further shifting the burden of paying these benefits away from the coal companies and on to taxpayers."

Manchin will have some time before he officially casts his vote. The Build Back Better Act passed through the House in November. but the Senate will not vote on the bill until it returns to Washington in January.

Story by Anthony Conn of WCHS

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