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Manchin says climate and tax deal "all about" fighting inflation

CBS News

Washington — Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, defended Democrats' new climate and tax deal from criticisms that it will raise taxes across all income brackets and harm the economy, saying the package unveiled last week is "all about" combating inflation.

"This is fighting inflation," Manchin said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "This is all about the absolute horrible position that people are in now because of the inflation costs, whether it be gasoline, whether it be food pricing, whether it be energy pricing, and it's around energy, mostly that's driving these high inflation. This is going to take care of that."

Transcript: Sen. Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation"

Following months of negotiations over a much larger spending plan that failed to yield an agreement, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a climate, health care and tax legislative package last Wednesday, a major breakthrough for implementing President Biden's domestic policy agenda.

The plan, called the Inflation Reduction Act, calls for $369 billion for energy security and climate proposals, raises taxes on the nation's largest corporations, allows Medicare to negotiate for the price of prescription drugs starting in 2023 and extends enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies through 2025. Democrats also said the legislation will reduce the deficit by roughly $300 billion.

While the package falls short of Mr. Biden's sweeping $3.5 trillion social spending plan, which stalled in the Senate after talks between Manchin and the White House collapsed in December, the president has urged Congress to approve the legislation.

But Republicans have condemned Democrats for the proposal, arguing it will raise taxes on Americans across all tax brackets and fails to address historic inflation. Mr. Biden has pledged repeatedly not to raise taxes on families making less than $400,000, and Democrats said their plan upholds that promise.

Manchin refuted Republicans' criticisms of the legislation, saying it instead closes tax loopholes and imposes a 15% minimum tax on corporations with profits of at least $1 billion, who have lowered their tax rates below the 21% corporate tax rate enacted as part of Republicans' 2017 tax reform package.

"All the people that I know are paying 21% or more. All the even larger corporations, but some of the largest corporations of a billion dollars of value or more don't even want to pay the minimum of 15%," he said. "This is a fairness in closing a loophole. So, I'm not raising any taxes."

Manchin also lamented the "toxic" political atmosphere that he said is driving GOP opposition to the plan.

"I'm hoping they just take [a] cool off. Take a good look at the bill," he said, adding, "to have a piece of legislation, that we have energy, and we have investments for new energy, but basically, that's a responsibility. You can walk and chew gum, you have a balanced approach. These are solutions Americans want. We were able to provide these solutions. Let's not make them political."

Democrats are using an expedited legislative process called budget reconciliation that allows them to pass the package through the 50-50 Senate with a simple majority. But with the narrow margins in the Senate, Democrats must have the backing of all their members in order for it to clear the upper chamber.

While Manchin's support notches a key vote for Democratic leaders, it's unclear whether Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, backs the package. Sinema's office said last week she is reviewing the legislative text and needs to see what the bill looks like after it is reviewed by the Senate parliamentarian to ensure it complies with the rules governing the reconciliation process.

Manchin said he has not lobbied Sinema to support the legislation, but noted she has spearheaded individual parts of the package, such as the proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

"I've never lobbied my colleagues on that. I just basically put the facts out try to answer questions," he said. "I'm always trying to negotiate with them if they want and I tried to and sometimes we don't get there. They get frustrated. But we're always looking at the next opportunity to improve the quality of life in America. And that's what we're doing."

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