Hours after Sen. Joe Manchin stood firm on a topline of $1.5 trillion for the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package pushed by President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he was set upon by protesters who kayaked up to his Washington, D.C. houseboat.
Thursday had been the deadline for the highly anticipated vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, however, Pelosi was forced to pull the plug after top Democrats were unable to garner enough support for a measure Biden and Senate Democrats got enough Republicans to go along with in the upper chamber.
While Republicans have heavily whipped against the massive budget reconciliation package, Democrats have been battling internally between progressives and moderates, who disagree on its price tag and when to put it to a vote.
Moderate Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Manchin (D-West Va.) have repeatedly vowed not to vote for a $3.5 trillion price tag for the spending bill, while the far-left has promised to block the bipartisan bill until the spending bill is passed.
Left-wing activists on kayaks rowed up to Manchin’s houseboat Thursday evening, holding signs and banners that read, “Don’t sink our health care” and “No climate no deal.”
The West Virginia senator was seen leaning over a railing on his boat Almost Heaven in a video tweeted by the Center for Popular Democracy. According to the organization, activists have been protesting outside the boat all week, urging Manchin to back President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
While fielding questions, Manchin was pressed on his resistance to the $3.5 trillion price tag, despite other high budgets recently passing.
“We just passed a Pentagon budget of $788 billion” one activist pointed out. “And that over 10 years is $6 trillion.”
“How much do you think that we spend on non-discretionary, basically non-defense?” Manchin fired back. “Just as much.”
Another activist countered saying, “not enough.”
“Let me give you one bit of information,” one kayaker shouted at the senator. “I’ve got one little bit of information for you.”
“The Republicans are likely to take over the Senate, this is our one chance, right now, to pass the legislation.”
“[The Republicans] are not going to pass this for the people,” another activist said. “They’re not, this is our chance. We can’t wait.”
Manchin agreed with many things the activists said, including taxing the rich.
“We are going to make the rich and the famous pay,” he told them.
The demonstrators came from several different activist groups including Greenpeace USA, Young West Virginia and Race Matters WV. Center for Popular Democracy claimed the senator invited them for a meeting “tomorrow/Monday latest.”
Manchin stood by that number when speaking with reporters, and revealed he informed President Biden of it “in the last week or so.”
Manchin and Sinema have met several times with Biden at the White House to discuss passing the two pieces of legislation, and were spotted leaving a private meeting on Capitol Hill with White House Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice on Thursday.
The House is expected to take up the infrastructure bill on Friday after Pelosi canceled Thursday’s vote.
Following hours of negotiations, Pelosi revealed debate over the infrastructure bill “concluded,” and all that needed to be discussed was “shaping the reconciliation bill.”
“Discussions continue with the House, Senate and White House to reach a bicameral framework agreement to Build Back Better through a [$3.5 trillion] reconciliation bill,” she wrote in a so-called “Dear Colleague” letter, calling Thursday a “productive and crucial day.”
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure bill has already had its rule passed and its debate has concluded. All of this momentum brings us closer to shaping the reconciliation bill in a manner that will pass the House and Senate.”