At a Tuesday press conference before departing the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, President Biden expressed optimism that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will ultimately vote in favor of his $1.7 trillion Build Back Better budget deal containing much of the president's domestic agenda.
“I believe that Joe will be there,” Biden said. “I think we’ll get this done.”
Speaking on Capitol Hill the day before, Manchin said he could not fully endorse the framework of the plan released by the White House last week until the deal’s potential effects on the deficit, inflation and the tax code are studied further. Manchin and fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been at odds with the rest of their party — including the White House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — over the size, scale and process of the deal.
The bipartisan infrastructure measure easily passed the Senate in August, although a number of Democratic senators said they were supporting it only with the expectation that a larger budget package would also pass to fulfill the majority of the party’s domestic agenda. With slim margins in the House, progressives have the ability to kill the infrastructure bill until they’re confident Build Back Better has the votes to succeed.
With only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, however, the larger Build Back Better package cannot pass without Manchin's support.
“This is not how the United States Congress should operate or in my view has operated in the past,” Manchin said, criticizing the House progressives. “The political games have to stop.” He added that “holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.”
In a statement responding to Manchin’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed optimism that the West Virginia senator’s vote can still be won. “Experts agree: Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists have said it will reduce inflation. As a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Sen. Manchin’s support.”
The House was set to vote on both the infrastructure and budget packages early this week, but Manchin’s comments may slow the process yet again if enough members feel that approving the infrastructure deal would result in the Build Back Better plan's failure to pass.
“There is too much at stake for working families and our communities to settle for something that can be later misunderstood, amended or abandoned altogether,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement last week. “That is why dozens of our members insist on keeping both bills linked and cannot vote only for one until they can be voted on together.”
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