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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is interviewed after a news conference at the Marriott Hotel at Waterfront Place on June 3, 2021 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo: Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Manchin Rejects $3.5 Trillion Social Investment After Backing $9+ Trillion for Pentagon

"Ever notice how 'deficit hawks' vote for record-high defense spending, yet claim bills that help people and challenge lobbyists are 'too much?'" asked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Jake Johnson

Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday derided his own party's plan to spend $3.5 trillion over the next decade to combat the climate crisis, invest in child care, and expand Medicare as "fiscal insanity."

"All this operatic moaning about $3.5 trillion is ridiculous hypocrisy. Manchin has casually voted for nearly three times that for defense spending."

But progressive lawmakers and commentators were quick to point out that Manchin (D-W.Va.)—along with other conservative Democrats who are currently standing in the way of Democrats' reconciliation package—have had no problem greenlighting the Pentagon's increasingly bloated budget year after year after year.

"Ever notice how 'deficit hawks' vote for record-high defense spending, yet claim bills that help people and challenge lobbyists are 'too much?'" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked in a tweet Thursday evening.

Noting that the reconciliation package includes yearly spending of $350 billion while the proposed military budget for Fiscal Year 2022 is $770 billion, the New York Democrat wrote: "Guess which got rubber stamped and which gets deemed a 'spending problem.'"

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the $770 billion military policy bill—which includes $740 billion for the Pentagon alone–by a vote of 316-113, with just 38 Democrats voting no. The Senate is expected to pass its version of the National Defense Authorization Act in the coming days.

In a column published late Thursday, The Week's Ryan Cooper observed that Manchin "voted for every single one of the military budgets over the last decade—in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020."

"He voted for all $9.1 trillion," Cooper wrote. "While he occasionally complained about wasteful military programs and asked for an audit of the Pentagon, these quibbles were never enough to get him to vote differently. He helped inflate the already-bloated war budget and regularly boasted about thus 'supporting' the troops. This year, he did it again."

"So on one level, all this operatic moaning about $3.5 trillion is ridiculous hypocrisy," Cooper continued. "Manchin has casually voted for nearly three times that for defense spending—money that killed hundreds of thousands of people and turned half the Middle East into a smoking crater. A modest fraction of that total to help parents pay their bills, give seniors dental coverage, fight climate change, and so forth is not some intolerable burden on the economy."

West Virginia activists in kayaks presented that critique directly to Manchin on Thursday as the Democratic senator listened from his yacht:

In ongoing talks over the reconciliation package, Manchin is pushing for a top-line spending level of $1.5 trillion. That figure is at least $2 trillion less over 10 years than Democrats' current plan, which would spend $3.5 trillion over the next decade.

As Win Without War executive director Stephen Miles noted Thursday, Manchin's preferred $1.5 trillion number is "less than we'll spend at the Pentagon over the next two years."

"And Manchin's talking about a DECADE of spending across the entire rest of the government," Miles wrote on Twitter. "During that time we'll spend somewhere north of $8 trillion, possibly closer to $10 trillion. Just. at. the. Pentagon."

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