Differences in spending amounts and priorities contained in President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package known as his “Build Back Better” plan is stalled over differences between two senators: Joe Manchin from red West Virginia and Bernie Sanders from blue Vermont, and unless one of them relents, it doesn’t look as though the measure has much chance of passing in its current form.
The two are at opposite ends of the Democratic political spectrum, Manchin a centrist and Sanders as self-avowed socialist, and their differences regarding Biden’s bill could not be starker, Politico noted in a Monday report.
What’s more, their disagreements have increasingly gone public, with Sanders publishing an op-ed in a local newspaper in West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston, in which he called Manchin out, and which Manchin quickly blew off as irrelevant given that Sanders doesn’t represent West Virginians.
There is also little personal history between the two men, as noted by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who told Politico, “They’ve never been particularly close, and they have very different approaches.”
That said, the outlet noted that both met briefly on Monday in private conversation, as the situation continues to be monitored by the White House following individual meetings with both senators involving the president.
“The president may find it hard to make peace. While they hail from opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum, Sanders and Manchin have some big things in common. They both hold seats at the party’s leadership table, and they share a stubborn streak when challenged on their biggest goals,” Politico noted.
“Still, both took pains Monday to demonstrate their collegiality. Manchin and Sanders met for a short one-on-one Monday evening and told reporters afterward that ‘we’re talking.’ Manchin then called Sanders over for a photo together outside the Capitol,” the outlet added.
Manchin continues to cling to his demand that the bill is pared back to about $1.5 trillion, having repeatedly stated that is as high as he is willing to go.
“I’ve been very clear when it comes to who we are as a society, who we are as a nation, and why we are still the hope of the world,” he said last week. “I don’t believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society. I think that we should still be a compassionate, rewarding society.”
He also wants a natural gas carve-out as part of the massive spending bill’s climate change focus, arguing that it is a cheap, clean-burning fuel that will still help reach lowered emissions objectives.
“I haven’t changed. I’ve been clear where I am at,” Manchin said this week when asked about the spending package and his $1.5 trillion offer to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Sanders, however, wants the full spending package. He has vehemently rejected any consideration of including fossil fuels in a climate change plan while pushing for full funding for a range of social welfare packages. Also, he came down to $3.5 trillion from his initial demand of an even larger $6 trillion spending package.
Manchin, meanwhile, did not want any new spending bill at all but has since come up to $1.5 trillion.
Some Senate Democrats were critical of Sanders’ Charleston op-ed, noting that he broke a cardinal rule that Democratic senators shouldn’t campaign against each other in their home states.
“It didn’t accomplish anything. We’re in a position to get this thing done. Everybody has to act like an adult,” one Dem senator who requested anonymity told Politico.
In addition, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) noted that “senators are entitled to their own opinions,” adding that “I understand why Sen. Manchin reportedly did not respond well to having an editorial written in one of his home-state papers.”
“They’re going to do battle in public. I don’t think that there’s any way around that,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), told Politico. Nevertheless, he warned that “every single day that we’re consumed by internal debates and internal arguments is a day that we’re not actively selling” the plan to Americans.
“I don’t think much moves Manchin. I think he makes up his own mind,” noted Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). “Bernie’s got to do what Bernie’s got to do. He’s trying to push for an agenda that really helps the people of West Virginia. And, listen, Joe Manchin is not new to op-eds. He’s written quite a few himself.”
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