Manchin’s $ 1.8 trillion spending offer no longer appears to be on the table


WASHINGTON – The week before Christmas, Senator Joe Manchin sent the White House a $ 1.8 trillion counter-offer to President Biden’s Build Back Better program that included substantial funds for climate, health care and education initiatives.

About four weeks later, the West Virginia Democrat made it clear that he does not currently support even advancing this offer following a breakdown in negotiations between Manchin and the White House just before Christmas, said three people familiar with the matter.

Manchin said publicly this week that he was no longer involved in discussions with the White House over the economic package. Privately, he’s also made it clear that he’s not interested in approving legislation resembling Biden’s Build Back Better package and that Democrats should fundamentally rethink their approach. Senior Democrats say they don’t think Manchin would back his offer even if the White House tried to pass it in its entirety – at least not yet – after the mid-December fallout. People spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Negotiations quickly deteriorated in December after a White House press release named Manchin as an obstacle to passing the legislation. Manchin then surprised the administration by criticizing the bill on Fox News, after which the White House issued a dazzling statement questioning his credibility. Manchin, who angered protesters over his opposition to the legislation, later said the decision to name him in the press release put his family’s safety at risk.

The White House has continued to optimistically project that it will eventually get Manchin’s vote and congressional approval of a major economic plan. And Manchin’s $ 1.8 trillion counter-offer suggested that there was still a lot of commonality between the two sides on the merits of politics. He has said in recent days that he supports much of the administration’s climate agenda, for example.

But Democratic leaders in Congress abruptly switched from trying to complete the economic package to voting rights legislation, leaving uncertain the fate of the White House’s chance to remake large parts of the US economy and deliver. the biggest investment ever in the fight against climate change.

Manchin spoke to various public officials trying to influence him on Build Back Better, such as Steve Ricchetti, senior White House adviser; Larry Kudlow, who was an advisor to President Donald Trump; and Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, among others.

White House allies, including several officials from the White House itself, have expressed confusion in recent days over how the administration could pass up the potential of a $ 1.8 trillion deal. which would constitute one of the most important elements of domestic policy for decades. .

Manchin’s offer included permanent funding for universal preschool, an extension of the Affordable Care Act and hundreds of billions of dollars in climate-related spending – measures fiercely opposed by Republicans in Congress. His plan also included supporting a billionaire tax, which would be the most aggressive plans to reduce wealth inequalities in modern American history. And Democrats may not see another majority in Congress for many years.

“A $ 1.8 trillion package modeled on what Manchin offered last month would be one of the most transformative and progressive pieces of legislation in modern history,” said Ben Ritz, budget expert at The Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, DC, thinks Char. “The White House should definitely take it if it can.”

But for several reasons, it’s unclear whether the White House could agree to Manchin’s plan, even if it wanted to – not the least of which is the confusion now over whether Manchin would vote to approve it.

As well as excluding the expanded child tax credit, a centerpiece of Biden’s anti-poverty agenda, Manchin’s offer included no funding for housing and no funding for racial equity initiatives, said two people familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the private negotiations. Many Congressional Democrats have had other demands for the package, such as an extension of Medicare benefits for the elderly and a repeal of the cap deduction on state and local taxes.

These and other provisions may need to be incorporated into the final plan to gain approval. To pass the bill, Democrats cannot afford to lose senators or more than three members of the House.

Additionally, Manchin’s offer included proposed tax hikes that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, had previously ruled out, people familiar with the matter said. And while Manchin has backed substantial new climate funds, the details of the policy behind his proposed climate arrangements remain unclear and could have proven difficult for the White House to ultimately accept.

Manchin’s positions were difficult to pin down during the negotiations, which led to a fierce lobbying effort to tip his vote. In recent weeks, Romney has been trying to see if he can negotiate a bipartisan child tax credit deal with Manchin, two people familiar with the matter have said. Romney offered a GOP alternative to Biden’s expanded child tax credit, but the measure is opposed by the vast majority of Republicans.

It is not known how far the talks between Romney and Manchin have progressed. Manchin insisted the family allowance included a work requirement for parents, unlike Romney’s plan.

Kudlow, who was one of Trump’s top economic advisers, also spoke with Manchin about Build Back Better, two other people familiar with the matter said. A spokeswoman for Manchin declined to comment on the state of negotiations. Kudlow declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Romney.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement: “We are not going to comment on the details of private conversations with lawmakers.”

With the president’s economic agenda in limbo, some liberal groups say they plan to continue pressuring Manchin to approve the legislation.

“The policies we fight for – like letting Medicare negotiate the prices – are incredibly popular in West Virginia, and Manchin clearly doesn’t listen to the people in his state,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, a leftist group. group. “Biden has to put the full weight of the presidency on Joe Manchin to get his vote in order for Build Back Better to cross the finish line. “

“I know the base isn’t giving up on Joe Manchin in any way,” Lawson said, “and we’re going to make it harder and harder for him not to listen to what the people of West Virginia demand him to do.”

Other liberals say it’s important to engage with Manchin now and make sure Democrats don’t miss the opportunity to pass sweeping legislation.

“A lot of progressives are willing to compromise in order to do something,” said Representative Ro Khanna, D-Calif., A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We understand that we need to win Senator Manchin’s vote, and I look forward to working with him and the White House to see where we can find common ground and what we can offer.”


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