Manchin says he will back up $ 1.5 trillion spending bill
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, a centrist Democrat, said on Thursday he could not support a social safety net bill of more than $ 1.5 trillion, less than half the size of the package that President Biden and the Democratic leadership tried to pass. Congress.
In comments to reporters outside the Capitol, Mr Manchin publicly outlined for the first time what he would be willing to support, detailing what he has been saying for weeks – that he couldn’t vote for a package up close. the size of the sprawling $ 3.5 trillion plan the Democrats outlined in their budget plan.
Mr Manchin’s relative silence on the specific proposals he would ultimately support frustrated liberals who feared he would ultimately oppose an ambitious plan to expand healthcare, education, leave programs paid and the fight against climate change, coupled with a series of tax increases on the rich and on corporations.
“I am ready to sit down and work on this 1.5 and know our priorities,” said Manchin, standing in front of the Capitol as protesters heckled him nearby. Liberal Democrats who want a larger bill “can come back and do it later, and they can bring in the rest later.” I think there are a lot of ways to get where they want to go, but not all at the same time.
It was not clear whether releasing these details would help appease or further anger Liberal Democrats, who threatened to oppose a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package on track for a vote in the House on Thursday without substantial progress towards the passage of the second, much larger bill.
Still, the comments were most candid about his willingness to support the social policy plan, which Democrats plan to push through using a fast-track process known as budget reconciliation that shields tax laws from obstruction. Democrats are trying to get the ball rolling against the United Republican opposition, which means they can’t spare even a vote in the equally divided Senate.
Mr Manchin said he informed Mr Biden last week of his total spending count and acknowledged that “he would like to have a lot more than that”.
Mr Manchin spoke about his position after news of an enshrining agreement signed by him and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was leaked on Thursday. The document, dated July 28, says Manchin will not support any plan that does not contain conditions for new spending, income thresholds for social programs, accommodations for tax credits for fossil fuels and the natural gas, or will spend no revenue exceeding $ 1.5 trillion. deficit reduction.
The agreement, obtained by Politico and confirmed by two people in the know, said Manchin “does not guarantee that he will vote for the final reconciliation law if it exceeds the conditions set out in this agreement.”
Mr Manchin’s memo also stated a number of requests to help the fossil fuel industry. He said that, in his role as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, he must have full control over shaping the core provisions of climate change legislation – while ensuring that those provisions will be a great deal. less ambitious and more fossil-fuel friendly than Mr. Biden had hoped for.
In addition, the memo requires that if the legislation were to include extensions to tax credits for wind and solar power, it would not nullify tax breaks for fossil fuel producers.
Mr Schumer, who signed the deal as he worked to persuade Mr Manchin to back the budget plan, also appears to have scrawled “I’ll try to deter Joe on a lot of them” under his signature. .
On Thursday, a spokesperson stressed that Mr Schumer does not consider it binding.
“As the document notes, Leader Schumer never agreed to any of the conditions set out by Senator Manchin; he simply recognized where Senator Manchin was on the subject at the time, ”said Justin Goodman, the spokesperson.
On Thursday, the office of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, another moderate resistant to Mr. Biden’s plan, said it would not “negotiate through the press” but had made its priorities and concerns known to Mr. Biden. and Mr. Schumer.
Davenport Coral contributed reports.