The Joe who’s running the show on negotiations over President Biden’s push for $3.5 trillion in taxpayer-funded social spending, Sen. Joe Manchin, signaled Tuesday he might soften his hardline stance on voting for no more than $1.5 trillion for the Democratic package.
“Well I’m not ruling anything out, but the bottom line is I want to make sure that we strategically do the right job and we don’t basically add more to the concerns we have right now,” Manchin told reporters when asked if he would consider a range of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion.
The West Virginia Democrat’s comments come in the wake of Biden floating that range to a group of party progressives on Monday as moderates like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) raise concerns over the cost and certain provisions in the president’s bill, the Washington Post first reported.
Progressives in the House of Representatives — who have held hostage a bipartisan, Senate-passed, $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, resulting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) twice having to push back the deadline for a vote — counter-offered a minimum spending amount of $2.5 trillion, according to the publication.
Democrats in both chambers passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution earlier this year, allowing Democrats to move forward with the reconciliation process, which permits them to bypass the need for Republican support in the Senate. But key centrists, including Manchin and Sinema — who returned to the Capitol on Tuesday — say they will not support $3.5 trillion in additional spending.
And in doing so, they have effectively usurped power from the party’s chosen leaders — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Pelosi and even Biden, whose legislative agenda is at stake.
The broad and massive reconciliation bill currently includes spending on climate change, the expansion of social programs including Medicare and aims to raise taxes on the Americans earning $400,000 or more and corporations. It is not expected to garner any GOP support.
Manchin, a pro-life Democrat, has also broken with party leaders’ position on language on the Hyde amendment, which looks to prohibit federal funding of abortion, asserting he will not back a reconciliation bill that does not include the provision.
Progressives have vehemently pushed back on Hyde language being included in the measure, with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) telling CNN on Sunday that she would not vote for a measure that includes the language.
After opting not to bring up the bipartisan infrastructure legislation on Friday, Pelosi said she would like to see significant progress on the reconciliation bill to allow the chamber to pass the “hard infrastructure” measure by Oct. 31.