Manchin fans faint hopes for stalled social, climate bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pivotal Sen. Joe Manchin floated the broad outlines Wednesday of a reconfigured social and environment package that aims half its resources at reducing federal deficits, a day after President Joe Biden suggested refocusing his own more ambitious but stalled plan.
Manchin, D-W.Va., whose opposition doomed Biden’s 10-year, roughly $2 trillion measure in December, provided no figures or details. But in briefly describing his ideas to reporters, he provided a faint flicker of hope that Democrats might revive some version of Biden’s marquee legislative priority this election year.
Even so, by saying he wanted half the package to be for deficit reduction and controlling inflation, Manchin was suggesting a major reshaping of the legislation that would leave less room for Democratic priorities, leaving its prospects uncertain. The entire effort has drawn unanimous Republican opposition, and it was sidelined in the evenly divided Senate after Manchin said before Christmas that he opposed a version of the bill that the House had passed.
“If you want to talk, don’t you think you should get your financial house in order,” Manchin said. “If they’re not serious about inflation and debt, then it would be hard for me to negotiate on anything.”
Democrats had argued the House-approved bill was mostly paid for and said it would help families cope with inflation by providing them with more federal help.
Manchin said there have been “no formal talks” over resuscitating the effort and said he has not discussed his ideas with the White House. He has said for months that the House-approved bill would fuel inflation, but he did not say Wednesday what he meant by using the legislation to curb price increases that have rippled across the economy.
Manchin said he wanted to raise revenue by boosting taxes on the rich and corporations and by curbing prices of the prescription drugs that Medicare buys for its beneficiaries. The savings not used for deficit reduction could go for a priority like using tax credits and other incentives to reduce pollutants that contribute to global warming.
All of those were in the Biden-backed bill that Manchin derailed in December. But the sidelined legislation was much broader, also including initiatives like enhanced child tax credits, health care subsidies and free pre-school.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden suggested a rebranded version of that package, though he used no numbers. He said the measure would help families cope with rising expenses and emphasized it should restrict drug prices, combat climate change and help with child care costs.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a progressive who clashed repeatedly with Manchin over the social and environment bill, didn’t rule out accepting a smaller package if it included accomplishments like reducing prescription drug and child care costs. But he seemed reluctant to bow to Manchin’s proposals.
“Mr. Manchin doesn’t, last I heard, run the United States Senate. Our job is to bring forth the legislation that the American people want. Mr. Manchin can vote no,” Sanders said.
“A lot of discussions going on among senators,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said when asked if Biden’s words had prompted new movement on the push.