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Manchin: Deal With Schumer ‘Shouldn’t Be a Surprise’

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Armed Services hearing to examine worldwide threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WHEELING – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said in recent weeks he never stopped trying to reach deals regarding energy security, lowering healthcare costs and curbing inflation growth.

Manchin, D-West Virginia, addressed state and national media Thursday via Zoom while still in isolation with the COVID virus. His words came less than 24 hours after he and Senate President Chuck Schumer, D-New York, announced they had achieved the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Among other things, their deal seeks to fight inflation by investing $300 billion to reduce the federal deficit, imposing a 15 percent tax on large corporations, and reducing drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and lowering out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

The legislation came after Manchin’s blocking of fellow Democrats’ “Build Back Better” bill last spring, and his well-publicized battles with Democrats to reduce social spending measures and delay their attempts to curb carbon emissions.

“All of you, I know, might be surprised, but there shouldn’t be a surprise because I’ve never walked away from anything in my life,” Manchin said of the agreement announced Wednesday evening. “I just thought there was an opportunity here to really give us an energy policy here with the security we need for this nation.”

He said his main goal all along had been to drive down the high price of gasoline, while also reducing the growing rate of inflation.

The bill achieved would pay down the deficit, protect energy security while addressing climate change concerns, and create “robost” investment opportunities in energy technology so that America can compete with other countries, he continued.

“We can be energy independent, and not be dependent on other nations for the energy supply we need right now,” Manchin said. “We will be able to back-fill our allies around the world – especially in Europe – with the cleanest fossil energy in the world…while we also make a tremendous investment in the future of energy for our country and the world.

“I think we’ve hit our balance. This is not a Democrat bill. This is not a Republican bill. This is an American bill.”

Manchin indicated that standing firm on his goals wasn’t easy in recent months. At one point, protesters even surrounded his houseboat, “Almost Heaven,” that he lives in while in Washington.

“No one in their right mind would go through all the protests or aspects that happened to me after Build Back Better was defeated, which I thought was a bill that was too much for America.,” he said. “It was something that would change us, and I was not in support.”

But Manchin said he knew “something reasonable” needed to be done. In April, he and his staff began talking about what feasible measures could be enacted to help the country.

Manchin termed the discussion “amicable.”

He and Schumer then began speaking on the issue of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and that became a starting point for this week’s deal.

“My main concern was inflation,” Manchin said. “I was worried about inflation being a driving point because it is harming every West Virginian. I hear about it every day – the high price of gas, the highprice of food, the high price of energy, the high price of everything they need.”

Then an inflation rate of 9.1 percent was announced for June, and Manchin said he then became reluctant to suggest any plan that “might make it worse.”

“It got a little hot and heated, but that’s the way negotiations go,” Manchin said of his talks with Schumer.

People thought he walked away, or was reversing his position, he continued.

“I have never been in reverse in my lifetime, and I’ve never walked away,” Manchin said.

He and Schumer met up, and Manchin told him “something positive could be done.”

“We just couldn’t do anything inflammatory,” he continued.

Next came some restructuring of their plan, focusing on taxes.

The Inflation Reduction Act, as written, places a 15% domestic tax on billion-dollar companies. But Manchin stresses nothing in the bill actually raises taxes, and that the 15% amount only assures the companies pay what they are already being taxed.

In 2017, Congress actually reduced the rate from 35% to 21%, he explained.

“The people were paying at least 15% and were supposed to be paying 21%,” Manchin said. “If someone was upset because they weren’t paying anything, please come forward and tell us why you were able to have this great country protect and give you great opportunities and you didn’t have to pay anything into it.”

Manchin appeared well during the Zoom call, though he did leave briefly for a coughing attack when he was asked from where the $300 billion to reduce the national deficit was coming.

Manchin explained there is $739 billion in revenue in the bill, with $400 billion through dollars coming from the 15% corporate tax rate.

Another $288 billion comes over the next 10 years from allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, he continued.

The remainder is expected to come from shoring up the IRS offices and making certain they are able to collect the money owed from citizens without harassing them, Manchin said.

In additon to the $300 billion for inflationary measures, About $369 billion of the overall revenue will be spent on a “robust energy industry” focusing on carbon sequestration efforts, according to Manchin.

He feels confident the Inflation Reduction Act ultimately will be accepted by both parties in Congress.

“I didn’t do it to help the Democratic Party. I didn’t do it to hurt the Republican Party,” Manchin said of crafting the plan. ” I think in normal times both parties would have come together on something like this. I really do.”

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