Manchin departs from $1.5T reconciliation spending bill cap for new top-line number

Sen. Joe Manchin says he is open to a larger reconciliation spending package above the $1.5 trillion he pitched last week, indicating that party pressure to get the West Virginia Democrat on board with President Biden’s economic agenda may be working.

Last month in a number of interviews, Manchin said he could not and would not support the $3.5 trillion bill being pushed by most Democrats and the White House, throwing its passage in doubt given the 50-50 split in the Senate and no Republican support. The moderate’s refusal to support the legislate led to an intense pressure campaign from fellow Democrats and the White House, not to mention left-wing activists, some of whom showed up in kayaks to protest outside of his houseboat in Washington, D.C.

But on Tuesday, he indicated he’s open to a reconciliation bill in the neighborhood of $1.9 trillion and $2.2 trillion, though that still puts him far below leftists in the chamber like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

In addition to Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has also signaled she is not on board with the higher amount.

“I’m not ruling anything out, but the bottom line is I want to make sure that we’re strategic and we do the right job and we don’t basically add more to the concerns we have right now,” Manchin told reporters regarding the legislation, which the White House and other Democrats are calling a “human infrastructure” bill.

Last week, Manchin declared, “My top-line has been $1.5 [trillion].” In addition, he told reporters that he is not keen “to change our whole society to an entitlement mentality.”

House progressives criticized Manchin over his remarks last week but Democrats in the Senate have shied away from bashing him because they realize he holds one of the chamber’s key votes, The Hill reported.

Also, though the West Virginia moderate and former governor has indicated he is willing to compromise somewhat on the final price tag, there remain a number of disagreements with members of his party that must still be worked out.

One of them, The Hill reported, is his insistence that the Hyde Amendment be included in the final bill barring federal tax dollars from being used to fund abortion expenses. Another is Manchin’s demand that natural gas producers be eligible for Clean Electricity Performance Program grants, a $150 billion measure designed to fight climate change.

West Virginia is the nation’s sixth-largest producer of natural gas, but liberal environmentalists who support Democrats, as well as the party’s progressive faction, have been critical of using natural gas in the production of electricity without the inclusion of carbon-capture technology, which Manchin says is exceedingly impractical and expensive for the time being.

Some have suggested a carbon tax as a means of offsetting emissions from those plants, but Manchin has so far rejected that as well though it is being pushed especially hard by other Democratic senators including Chris Coons of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Manchin is concerned that provision could be utilized to quash coal production in his state, an industry that has been a major employer over the decades.

Last month, the Arizona Democratic Party passed a resolution critical of Sinema and pressuring her to agreed to ditch the 60-vote filibuster rule as well as support Biden’s full reconciliation package. Both she and Manchin have said they do not support getting rid of the filibuster.

Jon Dougherty


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