U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) listens as President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on March 1, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images)

Progressives Slam 'Phony' Manchin for Pushing Lower Drug Prices After Killing BBB

Congress has "failed to keep our promises to seniors" because Sen. Joe Manchin "sabotaged the Build Back Better Act," said Warren Gunnels, an aide to Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders.

Progressives within and beyond Congress took aim at Sen. Joe Manchin on Tuesday after the West Virginia Democrat infamous for blocking his own party's priorities took to Twitter to call for lowering prescription drug prices.

"What an amazing display of audacity."

Sharing a photo with older residents of his state, Manchin said that "by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month, and allowing the importation of drugs from Canada, we can lower prescription drug prices in America. We must take action and keep the promises we've made to our seniors."

The tweets were swiftly noticed by critics who pointed out that Manchin prevented the passage of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, a sweeping package approved by House Democrats last year that included various drug pricing reforms.

Responding to the senator, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted that "you literally killed the bill to do this."

Human rights attorney Qasim Rashid told Manchin that his demands are "all things you voted against when you blocked the BBB," and "it's mind-blowing that you would tweet this when you're the reason Americans don't have this."

Warren Gunnels, majority staff director for Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was similarly critical.

"What a phony. THE reason we failed to keep our promises to seniors is because [Manchin] sabotaged the Build Back Better Act and refuses to end the filibuster," said Gunnels. "In Joe's world, protecting the filibuster is more important than protecting seniors. No wonder billionaires love him."

"If Manchin didn't sabotage Build Back Better, Medicare would be negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices, insulin would be capped at $35 a month, and Medicare would be expanded to provide dental, vision, and hearing to seniors," he added. "Promises made. Promises broken."

Sanders himself blasted Manchin and fellow obstructionist Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona during a televised interview with MSNBC earlier this month, accusing the pair of sabotaging President Joe Biden's agenda.

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Despite Manchin long expressing support for cutting prescription costs and suggesting in recent months that he would be open to a watered-down package to advance climate action, drug price reforms, and higher taxes on the wealthy, no concrete proposals have publicly materialized.

NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid noted that Manchin's tweets followed Biden's Monday opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal on his administration's plan to fight inflation, which said that "we can reduce the price of prescription drugs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and capping the cost of insulin."

Troy Miller, a West Virginia organizer for Social Security Works, demanded action from his senator on Tuesday.

"It's been six months since we rallied for you to vote for these provisions as part of BBB," Miller said. "And in the meantime, people have died because they couldn't afford meds. Bring a bill forward!"

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