President Joe Biden will meet with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) about their opposition to the price tag of the reconciliation package — $3.5 trillion over 10 years — according to multiple news outlets.
He will reportedly meet with the two lawmakers separately.
Manchin, the more media-loving of the two, has made the rounds on TV and in print, agonizing Democrats with his insistence that there’s no urgency to pass the bill and that it ought to be severely trimmed to $1-$1.5 trillion. His rationale changes from interview to interview: sometimes “runaway inflation,” sometimes the unknown future of the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes spending squeamishness.
Sinema has said in a statement that she doesn’t support the $3.5 trillion topline, though hasn’t said what price she would support.
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Now Biden is bringing the power of the presidency to change their minds, as the two are currently threatening the entire Democratic agenda for the foreseeable future. It’s an intervention advocates are begging Biden to repeat on other critical issues to Democrats, like passing voting rights safeguards.
Manchin’s insistence that the bipartisan infrastructure bill, a much smaller bill that already passed out of the Senate with Republican support, be brought up by the House immediately is particularly problematic to Democrats’ strategy. Congressional leadership has kept the bipartisan bill linked to the reconciliation package for weeks, the better to make sure both the moderate and progressive wings vote for the bill they like less. It lets both camps maintain their leverage.
Due to a House moderate rebellion last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to bring the bipartisan bill to a vote on September 27. For the two bills to remain linked, the Senate has until then to pass the reconciliation package. If the reconciliation package isn’t finished by then, House progressives may tank the bipartisan bill.