Updated Jul 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' Manchin rage

Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Democrats are publicly fuming that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) can't be trusted and has doubled-crossed them yet again on Build Back Better. But privately, they're taking him at his word that he's still committed to working with them to lower prescription drug prices.

Why it matters: Party leaders are moving to vote on a drug pricing and health care subsidy package this month. Capping drug costs is hugely popular across party lines and could give Democrats a major boost ahead of November if infighting doesn't sink a deal.

  • From President Biden to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Democrats are seizing on Manchin’s public comments that he’s willing to support a package focused on deficit reduction, allowing Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices and two years of funding to bolster the Obamacare insurance exchanges.

Driving the news: Democrats made no attempt to hide their rage and indignation after reports Thursday night that Manchin had told party leaders that due to inflation concerns he was out on any economic package with climate change spending or new taxes on the wealthy or corporations.

  • After negotiating with Schumer all spring on a modified package to include $1 trillion in revenue and $500 billion in new spending, he was again taking his ball and going home.

What they're saying: "We're going to have to get two more Democrats — real Democrats — who will actually help us to implement the president's agenda and not obstruct it," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told reporters.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah that "Manchin is not particularly concerned about President Biden succeeding. He's not particularly concerned about the needs of working people.”
  • "Sen. Manchin’s refusal to act is infuriating,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) tweeted.

Manchin somewhat tempered his stance on Friday, telling a radio show in his home state that he simply wants more time and to see how the Federal Reserve responds to the 9.1% June inflation report. He also underscored his willingness to get the Medicare piece done now.

Reality check: Dems fear if they wait another month for Manchin to get comfortable with approximately $300 billion to fight climate change, they'll get nothing.

  • They're left shouting their outrage on Twitter and cable news.
  • But their anger and frustration won’t change the fundamental filibuster math that has governed the Senate for 18 months.

How we got here: Frustration with Manchin in the Democratic caucus runs deep. It stems, in part, due to his crafty habit of always playing for more time.

  • Last September, he first called for a "strategic pause," in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
  • In November, he told Fox News he wanted to "slow down and take a breath."
  • All the while, Manchin's relationship with Schumer was deteriorating, with both sides questioning if the other could be trusted.
  • A February effort to mend fences over Italian food didn't help them reset their relationship.

What we’re watching: Manchin’s call to dedicate most of $287 billion in estimated Medicare savings toward deficit reductions, with only $40 billion for the insurance exchanges, isn’t guaranteed to sail through both chambers.

  • A group of centrist House lawmakers is already making noise that they want tax increases to be included in any package.
  • “There are numerous options for raising the revenue necessary to get our nation on a sustainable fiscal trajectory,” nine lawmakers, including Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) and Ed Case (D-Hawaii) wrote to their party leaders.

The bottom line: Democrats are hopping mad at the senator from West Virginia and aren't trying to hide it. But they also know they need Manchin to deliver the 50th vote on any reconciliation bill.

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