WASHINGTON (AP) — DemocratsThey are still struggling to get the pieces together after Sen. Joe ManchinEffectively crushedPresident Joe Biden’s big domestic policy bill. They are now unsure if the $2 trillion Initiative can be modified to win the crucial vote. If not, the party faces a crushing defeat.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed on Monday that the chamber would vote early in the new year on Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” as it now stands, so every senator “has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.” That was a biting reference to Manchin’s sudden TV announcement On Sunday, vote against this bill
According to someone familiar with the conversation, Biden and Manchin talked later on Sunday. This was first reported by Politico. According to the anonymous source, it was respectful and cordial.
The conservative West Virginia Democrat is so dissimilar to his party that his relationships are so strained after months of failed talks, it’s unclear how they even get back to the negotiating table, let alone revive the sprawling more than 2,100-page social services and climate change bill.
“We’re going to work like hell to get it done,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, repeating the phrase several times at a briefing but never saying how.
The setback throws Biden’s signature legislative effort into deep doubt at a critical time, closing out the end of the president’s first year and ahead of congressional midterm elections when the Democrats’ slim hold on Congress. It is in danger.
This is paired with a solid Republican opposition Manchin’s vote is vital in the 50-50 split Senate on this and other initiatives, including the Democrats’ priority voting rights legislation that Schumer also promised would come to an early vote.
From the White House, Psaki struck a more conciliatory tone than her weekend hardball reaction to Manchin, saying Biden is a “longtime friend” of the senator and the president is focused on moving forward.
Vice President Kamala Harris told CBS News “the stakes are too high” for this to be about “any specific individual.” She said, “This is about let’s get the job done.”
Manchin, who is deeply involved with the politics of the state in which Biden lost decisively, has very little to gain by aligning himself too closely to fellow Democrats. It raises fresh questions as to whether Manchin can still be considered a member of the party.
In a radio interview Monday, he reiterated his position that the social and environment bill has far too much government spending — on child care, health care and other programs — without enough restrictions on incomes or work requirements.
But the lifelong Democrat was less clear when asked if the party still has room for him — describing himself as “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.”
Manchin said: “Now, if there’s no Democrats like that then they have to push me wherever they want.”
After months of negotiations with the White House and Senate staff members as well as Biden and fellow senators, he lashed out at hardline tactics against him by those he said “just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive.”
For the president and his party, there are still many unknowns about their next steps. Biden returned from Delaware to Washington, where he met with lawmakers who compared his options and discussed them with Congress during the recess period for the holidays. The president’s reputation as a seasoned legislator who wants to show the country government can work hangs in the balance along with his proposals.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a leader of the progressive caucus, spoke with Manchin early Monday, but emerged warning her colleagues the senator was an untrustworthy partner who “went back on his word.”
Jayapal said Democrats were working with the White House on alternative means of reaching the bill’s goals through executive or administrative actions, without legislation.
“We cannot make the same mistakes twice,” she said on a conference call with other progressives. “We cannot hang the futures of millions of Americans on the words of one man.”
The White House appeared to take interest in Manchin’s preference for a reimagined bill that would tackle a few top priorities, for longer duration, rather than the multifaceted and far-reaching House-passed version.
But it will be extraordinarily difficult for progressive and centrist Democrats to rebuild trust to launch a fresh round of negotiations having devoted much of Biden’s first year in office to what is now essentially a collapsed effort.
For example, Manchin wants to authorize the social programs for the full 10 years of a standard budget window — rather than just a few years as Democrats would as a way to keep the price tag down. This would result in painful reductions elsewhere in the package.
Despite Biden’s long courtship of Manchin, the senator has been clear throughout that the Democrats’ bill does not fit his vision of what the country needs, even though many residents in his state are low income, some in desperate need of the health, education and child care services the bill would provide.
The sweeping package is among the biggest of its kind ever considered in Congress, unleashing billions of dollars to help American families nationwide — nearly all paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
It would offer free child care assistance and pre-school for families who have children. It provides subsidies to help with health insurance premiums and lower prescription drug cost. Medicaid access is expanded in some states where it does not exist yet. This bill will create a program to provide hearing aids for senior citizens. It also includes over $500 billion for carbon emission reductions, which is the highest federal spending ever on climate change.
Biden’s new deadline is approaching with an expiration of the Anonymity Act. expanded child tax credit that has been sending up to $300 monthly directly to millions of families’ bank accounts. If Congress fails to act, the money won’t arrive in January.
Biden-Manchin talks deteriorated in the final round of negotiations last week, which turned heated according to someone who was not authorized to speak on behalf of Manchin.
In a stunning repudiation of his party, Manchin gave the president’s staff just a 20-minute heads-up he was about to announce his opposition to the bill.
It called to mind the famous thumbs-down vote by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that killed President Donald Trump’s 2017 effort to repeal the health care law enacted under President Barack Obama.
Republicans extolled Manchin’s independence, but Democrats were relentless in their condemnation.
Nancy Pelosi was the House Speaker and struck an optimistic note at an event she hosted in San Francisco. “This will happen,” she said. “I’m not deterred at all.”
The report was written by Hope Yen and DarleneSuperville from the Associated Press.