Joe Manchin has recorded an ad for a Republican in a West Virginia US House election, in which the Democratic senator trumpets his opposition to Joe Biden’s Build Back Better domestic spending plan.
“David McKinley has always opposed reckless spending because it doesn’t make sense for West Virginia,” Manchin said.
Build Back Better was the centrepiece of Biden’s agenda, a $1.75tn package meant to boost health and social care and combat the climate crisis.
Biden needed Manchin’s vote to get it through a Senate split 50-50 and controlled via the vice-president, Kamala Harris.
After lengthy negotiations Manchin sank the plan dramatically, using an interview with Fox News Sunday to say he was a “no”.
The White House responded angrily. Manchin’s stances on Build Back Better and issues including voting rights protections have since made him a boogeyman among progressives.
In a new book, This Will Not Pass, two New York Times reporters describe meetings in which Senate Republicans sought to persuade Manchin to switch parties and thereby hand them control of the chamber.
In response, Manchin said: “I am who I am, I’m a West Virginia Democrat.”
A former governor and the only Democrat in major elected office in the state, Manchin has now released a 30-second ad in support of McKinley, who because of redistricting is challenging another sitting Republican, Alex Mooney, in a 10 May primary.
In the ad, Manchin says: “I’ve always said, ‘If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it. And that is why I opposed Build Back Better. For Alex Mooney and his out-of-state supporters to suggest David McKinley supported Build Back Better is an outright lie.”
Many observers have said Build Back Better would have benefited West Virginians, who live in one of the poorest states in the union, prey to the fossil fuel industry in which Manchin prospered. Manchin has suggested parts of the plan could win his support. No visible progress has been made.
In the ad, Manchin also says: “Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know David McKinley is all about us.”
Mooney – who counts among his roles in Washington co-chairmanship of the bipartisan Congressional Rugby Caucus – tackled the ad on Twitter.
It was, he said, “further proof that David McKinley is a complete and total RINO”, meaning “Republican in Name Only”.
Mooney also pointed to a Biden domestic policy success, writing: “Joe Manchin and David McKinley both supported Joe Biden’s $1.2tn non-infrastructure bill.
“They also supported the sham January 6 witch hunt investigation against Donald Trump and his allies. Manchin even voted for Trump’s impeachment.”
All 50 Democratic senators and seven Republicans voted to convict Trump in his second Senate trial, for inciting the deadly Capitol attack.
Trump was acquitted and remains free to run for office. His endorsements are highly prized. He has backed Mooney.
Mooney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. McKinley did not immediately comment.
A spokesman for Manchin told the Hill: “The ad speaks for itself.”