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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued a statement on Wednesday saying he has "serious concerns" about the size of Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, calling it "simply irresponsible" to continue spending at such high levels.

The latest: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to Manchin's concerns at a press conference on Tuesday, saying: "Look, there are some in my caucus who might believe it’s too much, there are some in my caucus who believe it’s too little."

  • "I can tell you this on reconciliation: One, we are going to all come together to get something done. And two, we’ll have every part of the Biden plan in a big, bold, robust way."

Why it matters: Senate Democrats cannot lose a single vote in order to pass President Biden's sweeping economic plan via reconciliation, a process that only requires 50 votes rather than the usual 60 to overcome a filibuster.

  • Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), another Democratic moderate, both voted to open debate on the budget resolution early Wednesday morning. But both have signaled doubts about the size of the package.
  • Moderates in the House, where Democrats have a majority of just three votes, have also expressed serious concerns — setting up a high-stakes clash with progressives who have no interest in paring down the size of the bill.

What he's saying: "Over the past year, Congress has injected more than $5 trillion of stimulus into the American economy – more than any time since World War II – to respond to the pandemic," Manchin said.

  • "Adding trillions of dollars more to nearly $29 trillion of national debt, without any consideration of the negative effects on our children and grandchildren, is one of those decisions that has become far too easy in Washington," he continued.
  • "Given the current state of the economic recovery, it is simply irresponsible to continue spending at levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession – not an economy that is on the verge of overheating."
  • "I firmly believe that continuing to spend at irresponsible levels puts at risk our nation’s ability to respond to the unforeseen crises our country could face. I urge my colleagues to seriously consider this reality as this budget process unfolds in the coming weeks and months."

What to watch: Schumer said that Senate committee chairs will work intensely over the next few weeks with the goal of having a reconciliation bill — presumably one that satisfies the concerns of both moderates and progressives — completed by Sept. 15.

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rich tax may flunk

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The "billionaire tax" and other revenues Democrats want to pay for President Biden's $2 trillion social safety net expansion are about to face a math test from a notoriously hard grader: the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Why it matters: The budget reconciliation instructions require the Senate Finance Committee to offset all the spending it authorizes with the same amount of revenue. Hot air from House and Senate leaders about pay-fors will be replaced by the joint committee's cold arithmetic — and the result is in doubt.

Oct 26, 2021 - Health

Crunch time for Democrats' competing health priorities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Democrats try to reach a deal on a massive social policy bill, the legislation's health care measures are emerging as key sticking points.

Between the lines: Moderate members have successfully reduced the amount of new spending that the party is aiming to pass, amplifying the tug-of-war between different factions of the party over which health policies to prioritize.

Oct 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

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