Sep 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop - Manchin: Delay Biden plan to '22

Sen. Joe Manchin is seen walking up a staircase in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Sen. Joe Manchin walks through the Capitol Visitor Center last week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Driving the news: Back home in West Virginia last week, Manchin told a group of employees at a Procter & Gamble facility in Martinsburg he wanted to pause all the talk about the $3.5 trillion bill until 2022, Axios was told.

  • Those semi-public comments track with some of his private conversations about how long he wants to impose the "strategic pause" he floated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month.
  • Manchin didn't give a specific timeline in his op-ed.

Any delay on the Democrat-only reconciliation package could imperil House passage of the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has promised to pass by Sept. 27.

  • House progressive lawmakers are publicly vowing to vote against the infrastructure bill if it's not paired with the $3.5 trillion bill to be passed through the budget reconciliation process.
  • But centrist Democrats are adamant the House pass the bipartisan bill first — next week.

The big picture: Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are leading the Democratic opposition in the Senate to the size and scope of the reconciliation package.

It's largely been written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and would vastly expand the social safety net from cradle to grave, as the New York Times recently put it.

  • Biden campaigned on many specific programs, including universal preschool and free community college. White House officials, as well as progressives in Congress, argue they're desperately needed to help foster a more equitable and inclusive society.
  • But Manchin has signaled he has deep concerns with specific elements of the package, and that his spending range is capped at $1.5 trillion.
  • Last week, the president failed to persuade him to accept the $3.5 trillion number during a meeting at the White House.

Between the lines: Manchin is more public about his opposition but Sinema also has deep reservations.

  • She continues to engage with the White House and Senate leaders and to negotiate in granular detail.

Go deeper: The Democrats' strategy of passing the two pieces of legislation simultaneously will face a crucial test this coming week.

  • Last Friday, nine House centrists reminded Pelosi of her promise to hold a vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 — a week from Monday.
  • “We reiterate our appreciation for the Speaker’s public commitment to only bring a bill to the House floor that can garner the necessary 51 votes for passage in the Senate,” the nine lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We need legislation that can get out of the Senate and to the president’s desk.”
  • But progressives insist the bipartisan package will fail if leadership brings it to the floor for a vote before the reconciliation bill is passed.
  • “It won’t have sufficient votes to pass the House,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Bloomberg.

What they're saying: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, suggested Sunday his party may need more time to resolve its differences.

  • “Sometimes, you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal,” he told CNN.
  • He also said of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill: "It may be $3.5 [trillion]. It may be close to that, or it may be closer to something else."

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Clyburn is the majority whip, not the minority whip.

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