Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is objecting to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to add paid family and medical leave back into the Democrats’ social spending bill, saying that “I don’t think it belongs in the bill.”
“That’s a piece of legislation that really is needed from the standpoint: if we do it and do it right,” the West Virginia senator told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Thursday, adding, “We can do that in a bipartisan way. We can make sure it is lasting.”
He added that a paid family leave policy should be done “in regular order through the process,” rather than using the budget reconciliation process.
In a major shift Wednesday, Pelosi announced that four weeks of paid family and medical leave will be brought back into the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, after Democrats had previously removed the provision from the package after failing to reach a compromise with Manchin.
Adding back in a key plank of Biden’s initial proposal follows Tuesday’s elections where Democrats suffered a significant loss in the Virginia governor’s race and the New Jersey governor’s race had been closer than expected.
Asked by CNN what lessons Democrats should take away, Manchin said, “People are basically saying, ‘Come together, work together and if you can’t, we’re going to keep shaking things up and they’re shaking them up at the polls.’”
“We have to work together. We can’t go too far left. This is not a center-left or a left country. We are a center, if anything, center-right country, that’s being shown. And we ought to be able to recognize that,” he said.
Asked if he bears some responsibility for Tuesday’s election results for his party, Manchin replied, “We can all do more. All of us can do a lot more.”
He argued that given the split makeup of the US Senate, Democrats “don’t have the numbers that FDR had or Lyndon Baines Johnson had in order to get some major, major legislation done.”
“So we have to come to the realization what we have, and deal in good faith, that we can do at least something,” he said.
Manchin also told CNN that he supports expanding child care, elderly home care and universal pre-K, but disagreed with the approach.
“There is a lot of things we agree on. But to throw everything under the sun, and major policy changes, John, in a bill that no one participates except one party, whether it is a Democrat or a Republican,” Manchin said. “And it was never designed, reconciliation was never designed for major policy changes.”
The West Virginia Democrat, who has been one of two Democratic key holdouts on President Joe Biden’s economic and climate proposal, stressed that he won’t say how he will vote because he hasn’t seen the bill yet.
But when asked if he would look Biden in the eye and tell the President he won’t vote for the bill, Manchin said, “You have to be honest.”