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 of the package President Biden and Democratic leaders have tried to push through Congress.
In comments to reporters outside the Capitol, Mr. Manchin for the first time publicly set out what he would support, detailing what he’s been saying for weeks: that he couldn’t vote for a package anywhere nearby. the magnitude of the massive $3.5 trillion plan the Democrats have outlined in their budget blueprint.
Mr Manchin’s relative silence on which specific proposals he would ultimately support has frustrated liberals who feared he would eventually oppose an ambitious plan to expand health care, education, paid time off and climate change programs, in combination with a series of tax hikes on the rich and corporations.
“I’m willing to sit down and go through those 1.5 and set our priorities,” said Mr. Manchin, standing outside the Capitol as protesters harassed nearby. Liberal Democrats who want a more comprehensive bill “can come back and do it later, and they can do the rest later. I think there are many ways to get where they want to — just not all at once.”
It was unclear whether making those details public would help soften or further infuriate liberal Democrats, who have threatened to oppose a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that is on track for a vote in the House on Thursday without substantial progress towards passing the second, much larger law.
Still, the comments were most outspoken about his willingness to support the Social Policy plan, which Democrats plan to push through using an accelerated process known as budget reconciliation, which shields tax legislation from a filibuster. Democrats are trying to get the package past the united Republican opposition, meaning they can’t miss even one vote in the evenly divided Senate.
Mr Manchin said he had briefed Mr Biden on his total spending last week, acknowledging that “he would like much more than that.”
Mr. Manchin spoke out on his stance after news of an agreement enshrining it signed by both him and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, was leaked Thursday. The document, dated July 28, says Mr. Manchin will not support any plan that lacks preconditions for new spending, income thresholds for social programs, adjustments for tax credits for fossil fuels and natural gas, or does not spend revenue in excess of $1.5 trillion. to reduce deficit.
The agreement, obtained by Politico and confirmed by two people with knowledge of it, said Mr Manchin “does not guarantee that he will vote in favor of the final conciliation legislation if it exceeds the terms set out in this agreement.”
Mr Manchin’s memo also made a number of demands to help the fossil fuel industry. It said that, in his role as chair of the Senate Energy Committee, he should have full control over the drafting of the legislation’s core climate change provisions — all but making those provisions much less ambitious and more fossil fuel-friendly. than Mr Biden had hoped.
In addition, the note claims that if the legislation included extensions to tax credits for wind and solar energy, this would not undo the tax breaks for fossil fuel producers.
Mr Schumer, who signed the agreement while he was in the process of persuading Mr Manchin to support the fiscal blueprint, also appears to have scribbled “I will try to discourage Joe on many of these points” under his signature.
On Thursday, a spokesperson emphasized that Mr. Schumer does not consider it binding.
“As noted in the document, Leader Schumer never agreed to any of Senator Manchin’s terms; he only acknowledged where Senator Manchin was on the subject at the time,” said Justin Goodman, the spokesman.
On Thursday, the office of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, another moderate proponent of Mr. Biden’s plan, said she would not “negotiate through the press,” but had expressed her priorities and concerns to Mr. Biden and Mr. Schumer. .
Coral Davenport reporting contributed.