By Jack Phillips
Responding to a Friday jobs report showing that far fewer jobs were added to the U.S. economy, President Joe Biden claimed the Delta COVID-19 variant is the reason why.
There is “no question the Delta variant is why the jobs report isn’t stronger,” Biden said Friday in prepared remarks, coming hours after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the economy added 235,000 jobs in the month of August. Economists had projected 750,000 jobs being added during the month.
“I know people were looking, and I was hoping for a higher number. But next week I’ll lay out the next steps we’re going to need to combat the Delta variant to address some of those fears and concerns,” he said, adding that economic recovery is contingent on COVID-19 case numbers dropping as well as Congress passing a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
“What we’re seeing is an economic recovery that is durable and strong,” Biden also said. “While I know some wanted to see a larger number today, and so did I, what we’ve seen this year is continued growth, month after month.”
The president also called on Congress to pass both the infrastructure bill and the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)-supported budget reconciliation bill worth $3.5 trillion. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Thursday wrote an opinion article saying he would not back the reconciliation bill, throwing a wrench in Biden’s economic agenda at least for the time being.
“This jobs report shows the steps we’ve taken, passing the rescue plan and vaccinating 175 million people, make [sic] our economy capable of growing and adding jobs even in the face of this growing Delta surge,” he also said.
This week, Biden has been trying to put the spotlight on his domestic agenda after the withdrawal of U.S. military troops from Afghanistan, which led to widespread criticism from members of both political parties for how it was handled. Several hundred Americans still are reported stuck inside Afghanistan.
In his Wall Street Journal opinion article, Manchin raised concerns that the reconciliation bill—which includes spending for social welfare, climate initiatives, and some infrastructure-related measures—would add a significant amount to the national debt and said it would raise inflation.
“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation,” wrote Manchin. “A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not.”
With Senate Democrats having just a 51-vote majority with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, Manchin’s defection imperils the passage of the bill, which would require a simple majority. All 50 Republicans have signaled they won’t support the measure.