As congressional Democrats speed ahead this week in pursuit of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan for social and environmental spending, a Democratic senator vital to the bill’s fate says the cost will need to be slashed to $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion to win his support.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also warned Congress that there is “no way” Congress can meet the September goal set by Nancy Pelosi, D.Calif. for passage, given his wide disagreements with liberal Democrats about how much and how to pay it.
Manchin stated Sunday that he could not support $3.5 trillion. He cited in particular his opposition of a proposed rise in the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 28%, and massive new social spending. We should be looking at all things, but we aren’t. We don’t need to rush to get this done in one week, because we have a deadline or someone is going to slip through the cracks.
Democrats don’t have enough votes to pass Biden’s “Build Back better” agenda. The Senate is split 50-50, and Vice President Kamala Harris acts as the tiebreaker in the event of no Republican support. Democratic congressional leaders set Wednesday as the deadline for committees to draft the bill.
Manchin was repeatedly asked about a price range he would support. He stated that it was $1, $1.5 trillion.
Manchin inquired, “The numbers they’re willing to pay for and tax changes they want to make are that competitive?” “I believe there are some changes that do not keep us competitive.”
But Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who chairs the Senate Budget Committee and is helping craft the measure, noted that he and other members of the liberal flank in Congress had initially urged an even more robust package of $6 trillion. Manchin’s proposal was a non-starter, he said.
Sanders stated that he did not believe it was acceptable to the president, the American people, or the overwhelming majority of people in the Democratic caucus. He said, “I believe that we will all sit down together and create a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that addresses the hugely unmet needs for working families.”
Current blueprint calls for billions to rebuild infrastructure, combat climate change, and expand or introduce a variety of services, including free prekindergarten and dental, vision, and hearing aid care for the elderly.
Last month, Manchin voted to approve a budget resolution setting the figure. However, he and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have expressed reservations over the topline amount. It would all be paid for by taxes on corporations and wealthy.
Congressional committees have been working hard this month on slices of the 10-year proposal in a bid to meet this week’s timeline from Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to have the bill drafted. Pelosi wants a House vote on Oct. 1 near the Sept. 27 deadline to vote on a narrower infrastructure plan that is favored by moderate lawmakers.
Manchin, who in an op-ed earlier this month urged a “strategic pause” on the legislation to reconsider the cost, described the timing as unrealistic. He urged Congress to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that was already passed by the Senate. Liberal Democrats threatened to withhold support until the $3.5 billion spending bill is included.
In their comments on Sunday news programs, neither side revealed how they hoped quickly to bridge the gap among Democrats.
Manchin stated that there is no way to get it done by the 27th if we do what we are supposed to. “There are so many differences between us here, and there is so much more than we can see from where we are. … I work with people. I am open to talking to people. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Manchin spoke on CNN’s State of the Union, NBC’s Meet the Press and ABC’s This Week. Sanders was also on CNN and ABC.