West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.
Already under fire from fellow Democrats and progressive activists for his ongoing efforts to weaken the Build Back Better Act, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday faced fresh pressure from his constituents, who traveled from West Virginia to rally at his Washington, D.C. residence—a houseboat named "Almost Heaven."
"We're tired of feeling like we're on a battlefield against our own representative."
"West Virginians like me should not have to come all the way to our senator's yacht in D.C. to be heard," said Katonya Hart of Race Matters West Virginia in a statement. "This bill is popular and needed across our state and across political parties, but Sen. Manchin is still blocking it. We're tired of feeling like we're on a battlefield against our own representative."
"We need healthcare, child care, affordable prescriptions, environmental justice—everything in the Build Back Better Act," Hart declared. "He needs to get out of the way and do what we, his constituents, have long been demanding. Pass the full bill, Joe Manchin."
Because Democrats are trying to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to advance the package—which contains several pieces of President Joe Biden and his party's agenda—every single senator in the caucus must support the bill. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) continue to hold up its passage with efforts to water down the legislation that could invest up to $3.5 trillion into climate action and social programs over the next decade.
"While we're outside Sen. Manchin's yacht listening to the stories of West Virginians dying from lack of healthcare, their struggle to afford child care, and the impossibility of finding good-paying jobs, Manchin is busy obstructing a bill that would address these issues," said Kristin Mink, senior legislative organizer at CPD Action. "We'll keep coming back until he listens to his constituents and passes the full Build Back Better Act."
CPD Action joined with Greenpeace USA, Race Matters West Virginia, Young West Virginia, Rise Up West Virginia, Black By God West Virginia, and Call to Action for Racial Equality West Virginia to bring together Manchin's constituents for the event.
"We want a healthy planet for our kids to grow up in, to make sure our loved ones can get the care they need when they get sick or hurt, and good quality union jobs that allow everyone to put food on the table."
"Manchin lives on a yacht. He should be more than familiar with the saying a rising tide lifts all boats," said Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner John Noël. "What the majority of Americans are supporting in Build Back Better is not unreasonable."
"We want a healthy planet for our kids to grow up in, to make sure our loved ones can get the care they need when they get sick or hurt, and good quality union jobs that allow everyone to put food on the table," he added. "Manchin has the opportunity to deliver on all of these, but instead, he's trying to pit the needs of the people against each other. We aren't throwing anyone overboard."
Along with rallying on the wharf, toting signs that told Manchin, "Don't sink our healthcare" and "Prove you give a damn about WV," demonstrators unveiled a banner on a nearby building that asked the senator, "Who will you throw overboard?"
"West Virginia is watching you, Joe Manchin," warned Greg Whittington, president of West Virginia Family of Convicted People. "We came all the way to DC because you weren't listening to us at home. Many of us traveled round trip in one day, because we can't afford to take all that time off."
"We need paid leave, we need child care, we need the Child Tax Credit, we need healthcare, we need the full Build Back Better Act," he added. "And we need our senator to step off his yacht, and listen to the voters who put him in his seat. Because we won't keep doing that if he doesn't act on our behalf."