Joe Manchin gave a fresh hint on what he wants from a skinny Build Back Better: 'Just fix the tax code'

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Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) walks out of a meeting with fellow Democratic senators for a break in the basement of the U.S. Capitol Building on December 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
  • Sen. Joe Manchin just gave a hint at what he wants to see in a new spending bill.

  • He told reporters on Wednesday, "Just fix the tax code. Just fix the taxes."

  • Manchin's said he wants to roll back the 2017 tax cuts, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has objected to raising some taxes.

It's hard to know sometimes what's on Sen. Joe Manchin's mind, but he seems to have taxes on the brain.

On Wednesday, the elusive West Virginia senator reiterated a familiar priority of his for a future spending bill that Democrats eventually want to cobble together.

"Just fix the tax code," he told reporters. "Just fix the taxes."

He also said earlier there were no major discussions to revive President Biden's sprawling social and climate spending bill known as Build Back Better. Manchin came out against the $2 trillion package in December, sinking it in the 50-50 Senate.

"There's a lot of people talking, but there's no serious talks that I'm having with anybody directly on what you're all referring to," he said. Manchin has since adopted a lead negotiating role on efforts to forge a bipartisan deal on electoral reforms.

Late last year, Manchin said he voted to advance an earlier version of the party-line bill because his top priority was rolling back the 2017 Republican tax cuts. He had often said that he wanted to lift the corporate tax rate to 25% from its current level at 21%.

But Manchin's central goal for the package was derailed by another Democratic holdout: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Insider reported last fall that she objected to raising corporate and individual tax rates, dealing a blow to the party's endeavor to hike taxes on the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.

Senate Democrats can't afford to lose the votes of either lawmaker in the face of unified Republican opposition, underscoring their outsized influence on the size and scope of Biden's economic agenda. It's a precarious position that's already put Build Back Better on pause for the time being.

In a December radio interview with West Virginia MetroNews, he said he sought to "fix the taxes so that everybody paid their fair share."

"We have one chance at this, OK? You have a chance to fix the tax code that makes it fair and equitable," Manchin said. "So if we all disagree with Republicans' reconciliation on tax cuts, don't you think we can sit down and fix a fair and equitable tax code?"

Manchin has also repeatedly raised concerns about rising inflation, which has reached its highest level in 40 years. A combination of persistent labor shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks are pushing prices up across the board for groceries, gas, and housing.

The Federal Reserve is charged with keeping inflation at manageable levels by increasing the cost of borrowing. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled recently that an interest rate hike could come as soon as March, Insider's Ben Winck reported.

Asked by Insider if he could back more government spending after an interest rate hike, the conservative West Virginia Democrat pointed to the nation's growing debt load.

"We all got to be fiscally responsible when you see the debt has gone to $30 trillion," Manchin said. "All the obligations we have with Medicare, Medicaid, and dependency on our retirees and all that. There's so many fiscal responsibilities — we have to get our house in order first."

The country's debt issue isn't so simple, according to Powell. The Fed chair told lawmakers in January that the risk isn't so much the debt as it is the government's spending. With rates set to start climbing soon, the country's immense borrowing will have to be scrutinized, Powell said.

"Debt is not at an unsustainable level, but the path is unsustainable, meaning it's growing faster than the economy," he said during his January 11 confirmation hearing in the Senate. "We have to address that over time."

Read the original article on Business Insider