Sen. Joe Manchin III, who holds the power to scuttle President Biden’s proposed spending packages, confirmed on Thursday that he has set a limit of $1.5 trillion for his support of Democrats’ social welfare and climate package, less than half of what the president is seeking.
The West Virginia Democrat said $1.5 trillion is the top line for what “we can afford” without jeopardizing the economy.
“I believe in my heart that [amount is] what we can do with the needs we have right now — what we can afford to do without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality,” Mr. Manchin told reporters at the Capitol.
It was not immediately clear how the Left would react to Mr. Manchin‘s limit. The figure is less than half of the $3.5 trillion that Mr. Biden and most congressional Democrats had been envisioning, and would mean the left will have to dramatically scale back their hopes for creating a slew of new subsidies.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington state Democrat and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Mr. Manchin‘s demand doesn’t change progressives’ position on the bills.
“We are in the same place we’ve always been,” she told reporters. “We put out an offer for 3.5 trillion and … in fact, 96% of Democrats in the House in the Senate support that number. We have 4% that would like something different.”
She said, “There’s no point in us negotiating against ourselves. We have invited Senator Manchin or anyone else who wants to, to put forward their vision. We will not be able to vote for the infrastructure bill until the [$3.5 trillion] reconciliation bill has passed. So we’re in the same place.”
Mr. Manchin said he had privately warned since July that $1.5 trillion is his limit, and reiterated that to Mr. Biden in the past week. He signed a document with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on July 28 outlining his spending limit and other conditions for his support, as first reported by Politico.
In the document, Mr. Manchin proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 25% from 21%, and the top tax rate on income to 39.6%. He said any revenue from the bill beyond $1.5 trillion must go to deficit reduction.
Sen.Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat told reporters that in a sense Mr. Manchin’s remarks represent movement toward reaching a deal.
“You know the good news is that it’s a definite number,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “The bad news is that it’s a definite number. It seems low.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, has also said a $3.5 trillion package is too expensive. She did not reveal her proposal in a statement she posted on Twitter on Thursday but said she has given a dollar figure to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator Schumer are false,” her statement said.
No one should be surprised that he is not willing to support the full $3.5 trillion, Mr. Manchin said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she still wants to move forward later in the day with a vote on the package. But House Democrats on the Left have vowed to block it unless they can reach a deal with the Senate on the social welfare package — a prospect that appears challenging after Mr. Manchin’s remarks.
Known to never bring key votes to the floor that did not have enough votes to pass, Mrs. Pelosi promised centrist Democrats, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, that a vote on the stand-alone infrastructure bill vote would happen by Thursday after previously postponing the legislation on Monday.
The speaker would not say if she planned on delaying the infrastructure vote if there were not enough lawmakers supporting the legislation, which includes Republican defections in favor of the bill.
When pressed by reporters if she planned to have the vote on Thursday if she lacked the numbers, she replied, “I do not plan on not doing anything. I plan on moving forward in a positive way. … We’re on a path to win the vote.”
She added, “I don’t want to consider any option other than that.”
‘So what’s our priorities?” he said on Thursday. “Children, pre-K. I’m strong on pre-K. Childcare, child tax credits, we can do that.”
But he repeated his insistence that new subsidies be limited to target the individual. “I don’t think a person who is making $200,000, 300,000 are in as much need as a person on the lower end,” Mr. Manchin said.