OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Joe Biden has placed the pressure on West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and to join fellow Democrats in their bid to pass a near $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill and he failed to get them on board.
Biden met with Sen. Manchin in the Oval Office on Wednesday and the senator rebuffed Biden’s pressure campaign, Axios reported.
Defying a president from his own party — face-to-face — is the strongest indication yet Manchin is serious about cutting specific programs and limiting the price tag of any potential bill to $1.5 trillion. His insistence could blow up the deal for progressives and others.
Axios was told Biden explained to Manchin his opposition could imperil the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that’s already passed the Senate. Biden’s analysis did little to persuade Manchin to raise his top line.
Manchin held his position and appears willing to let the bipartisan bill hang in the balance, given his entrenched opposition to many of the specific proposals in the $3.5 trillion spending package, Axios was told.
While the two left the meeting having made little progress, and are still some $2 trillion apart, the conversation was friendly and they agreed to keep talking.
Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates would not get into specifics on the meeting but called Manchin an “important partner.”
“Sen. Manchin is an important partner,” he said. “We do not discuss the contents of private meetings.”
Biden and the Democrats face a tough road as progressives in their party have threatened to stop a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal from being passed unless they get the massive reconciliation bill passed.
And moderates like Sens. Manchin and Krysten Sinema appear to be immovable on the size of the reconciliation bill.
With slim margins in both the House and Senate, Biden cannot afford to lose many House members, and not even one senator.
Last week New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatened to stop the infrastructure bill if she and her fellow progressives did not get what they want.
While speaking to followers during an Instagram live video, Ocasio-Cortez was asked if progressives would vote no on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package if it was not tied to the larger budget bill.
Ocasio-Corte said: “Yes.”
“Nothing would give me more pleasure than to tank a billionaire, dark money, fossil fuel, Exxon lobbyist drafted energy infrastructure bill if they come after our child care and climate priorities,” she said.
It was similar to a threat she made in August.
She appeared on the CNN show “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper on August 1, where the 30-year-old representative essentially threatened moderate Senate Democrats on the infrastructure deal, saying that if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill sans Republican support that the House “will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in.”
“So, we really need to see that language and see what’s put in there … when it reaches the House,” she said. “Bipartisan doesn’t always mean that it’s in the interests of the public good, frankly. Sometimes, there’s a lot of corporate lobbyist giveaways in some of these bills.”
She claimed that “a very large amount of the Progressive Caucus” in the House would not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure package if the more massive reconciliation bill did not pass.
“The total amount is about 90. I am not the whip of the Progressive Caucus,” she said. “But what I can tell you is that it’s certainly more than three. And it is in the double digits, absolutely.”
“Enough to prevent it from passing?” Tapper said.
“More than enough,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“I respect that we have to get Sen. Sinema and Manchin’s vote on reconciliation,” she said, referring to Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
But last week Sen. Manchin again said he would not support the near $3,5 trillion deal.
“We don’t have the need to rush into this and get it done within one week because there’s some deadline we’re meeting or someone’s going to fall through the cracks,” he said during an interview on the NBC show “Meet the Press.”
“I want to make sure that children are getting taken care of, that people are basically having an opportunity to go back to work. We have 11 million jobs that we haven’t filled, 8 million people still unemployed. Something’s not matching up there,” he said.
Manchin has expressed his reservations about the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill in the past.
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” the senator said.
“This is even more important now as the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have sounded the alarm that these life-saving programs will be insolvent and benefits could start to be reduced as soon as 2026 for Medicare and 2033, a year earlier than previously projected, for Social Security,” he said.
“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not,” Manchin said. “While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions. I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.”
“An overheating economy has imposed a costly “inflation tax” on every middle- and working-class American. At $28.7 trillion and growing, the nation’s debt has reached record levels. Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent more than $5 trillion responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Now Democratic congressional leaders propose to pass the largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation, crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises,” Manchin said. “Those who believe such concerns are overstated should ask themselves: What do we do if the pandemic gets worse under the next viral mutation? What do we do if there is a financial crisis like the one that led to the Great Recession? What if we face a terrorist attack or major international conflict? How will America respond to such crises if we needlessly spend trillions of dollars today?”
And the deal is also likely to face a tough challenge from Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema even as she voted in favor of the procedural vote last month.
“I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion—and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead,” she said to The Arizona Republic last month as she said she would vote to begin debate on the package, which she did.