The day before the Virginia gubernatorial election, congressional Democrats are at odds over the $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, whose passage Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe had called for to boost his election prospects.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) on Monday announced he will withhold his support for Democrats' larger $1.85 trillion social spending and climate bill, saying the White House-backed framework employs "budget gimmicks" and "shell games" to conceal the actual cost of the bill. House Democrats, however, have vowed to hold up the smaller infrastructure bill, which the Senate passed in August with 69 votes, until an agreement is reached on the spending bill. Manchin called for an immediate vote on the infrastructure bill, prolonging the standoff between himself—as well as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) and moderate House Democrats—and the party's progressive caucus.
McAuliffe has for weeks called on Democrats in Congress to pass the infrastructure deal, expressing frustration that his party is unable to notch a much-needed win ahead of the election.
"Why haven't we passed this infrastructure bill? It passed the U.S. Senate with 69 votes two months ago," McAuliffe told CNN last month. "We're tired of the chitty-chat in Washington. Get into a room and get it figured out."
The Virginia Democrat at a gubernatorial debate last month said the spending bill, whose price tag was then $3.5 trillion, was "too high" and pushed Democrats to pass the smaller infrastructure bill.
While McAuliffe's poll numbers have plummeted over the last month, political observers believed an agreement would boost the Virginia Democrat's election prospects. In recent days, however, McAuliffe has tried to distance his campaign from the intraparty debate, telling NBC on Sunday, "When I travel around Virginia, they're not asking about what's going on in Washington."
In recent weeks, McAuliffe has seen his polling lead over Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin evaporate—while the Virginia Democrat held a 5-point lead over Youngkin in early October, McAuliffe now trails the Republican candidate by 8 points, according to a Fox News poll released last week.