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It sounds like Joe Biden is doing all he can today to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Biden had Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to his home in Delaware today. Yes, Biden’s there once again — for the 25th time since taking office.
This may be one of the few times we’ve actually gotten a report on who he was meeting with in Delaware. The White House has refused to provide visitor logs of the people with whom Biden is meeting while there.
They’re trying to hash out their differences on the Build Back Better (BBB) social spending bill.
While Democrats are hopeful that the president and the two senators can hash things out and strike a framework for the legislation aimed at climate action, child care, health care and education, they are somewhat far apart. Manchin is insisting on his $1.5 trillion number, and the White House and Democratic leaders are aiming to go as high as $2 trillion after initially pursuing a total of $3.5 trillion. Both sides may need to show some flexibility down the stretch, and if Manchin comes up to a higher number, it could save a program or two from being cut entirely from the package.
What’s pretty astonishing is that Manchin has brought them completely to him. While he apparently hasn’t gone up yet and is sticking to $1.5 trillion, they’ve come down from $3.5 trillion to 2 trillion and, by some reports, as far down as $1.75 trillion.
They’re talking about possibly having a vote this week on the bipartisan infrastructure bill this week, if they can come together on the numbers for the BBB bill.
Given that they are still haggling over the price tag, revenues and overall policies for the legislation, it’s almost impossible to envision Democrats passing it this month. But party leaders are hopeful that if they can land an agreement, it will offer enough specificity to progressives to encourage them to pass the $550 billion infrastructure bill before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry at the end of the month — and before Virginia’s gubernatorial election a couple days later.
But it’s not clear yet that they’re meeting some of Manchin’s substantive issues on the bill. And there’s also no indication that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has been satisfied yet, and if they’ve removed all the aspects of the bill with which she had issues. Sinema has issues as to some of the taxes they want to impose — and that’s a big obstacle. Meanwhile, notice she’s not there this weekend in Delaware, and there’s no word that she’s about to agree to anything. So Joe appears to be missing how he’s going to convince her.
There would still seem to be some difference, despite the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says they’re close. “I think we’re pretty much there now,” she said. “It’s just the language of it.” But that’s what she’s said before and that didn’t come off.
Earlier in the week, Manchin made it clear when he met with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that he, Manchin, would be perfectly happy to walk away and do nothing. “I’m comfortable with zero as a number,” Manchin told Bernie, making a zero with his fingers.
Of course, Manchin and Sinema are also fronts for other moderate folks, both in the Senate and in the House, who believe similarly but are less inclined to be vocal about it. So, that would also remain to be seen if you’d get all of them, even if Manchin and Sinema were to move.
So, they may be coming a little closer on a number, in the sense that they’re coming down to Manchin’s number, but it’s there’s still a lot to work out.