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Sen. Joe Manchin addresses reporters on Monday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Monday he won't be pressured into supporting a $1.75 trillion expansion of the nation's social safety net and urged House progressives to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in the interim.

Why it matters: Manchin's declarations — and the unusually strong language he used in making them — show Democrats are no closer to passing the two bills that House leaders had hoped to move this week, and President Biden has said will define his presidency.

  • "Holding this [infrastructure] bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill," Manchin said.
  • "As more of the real details of the basic framework [for the reconciliation bill] are released, what I see are shell games — budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount ... if you extended it permanently."
  • "While I've worked hard to find a path to compromise, it's obvious compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress. It's all or nothing, and their position doesn't seem to change unless we agree to everything."

Manchin addressed reporters in a Senate briefing room as lawmakers returned to Washington after last week's frenzied activity surrounding both bills.

  • House progressives fear Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will gut the reconciliation bill.
  • They've vowed to withhold their pivotal bloc of votes for the infrastructure bill unless senators either first pass the safety-net bill or give public commitments they'll do so.

In his remarks, Manchin said he has concerns about the bigger bill's effect on inflation and increasing the federal debt, so he wants more time to study its specifics and determine their precise cost.

  • "It's time our elected leaders in Washington — all of us — stop playing games with the needs of the American people and holding a critical infrastructure bill hostage."
  • "I'm open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward, but I'm equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country."

In a statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the House plan "is fully paid for, will reduce the deficit, and brings down costs for health care, child care, elder care and housing."

"Experts agree: 17 Nobel Prize-winning economists have said it will reduce inflation. As a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Sen. Manchin’s support," she added.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional comments from Sen. Manchin and press secretary Jen Psaki.

Go deeper

The lawmakers playing up infrastructure the most

Expand chart
Data: Quorum; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Both of the Democrats' vulnerable Arizona senators have been some of the most active lawmakers in hyping "infrastructure" in their press releases, newsletters, tweets and Facebook posts.

Why it matters: Democrats are hopeful their successes on roads, bridges — and, possibly, expanding the social safety net — will lessen losses they're expecting in the 2022 midterms. The social media activity has been tracked since President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package into law.

Democrats pushing Biden to suspend federal gas tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Centrist Democrats are pushing President Biden to suspend the federal gas tax as a way of showing concern about inflation.

Why it matters: It's the strongest response yet from Democrats as Republicans make inflation a key part of their 2022 campaign messaging — but so far it's largely coming from candidates, not party leaders in Washington.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.