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Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday his topline number for the reconciliation infrastructure bill remains at $1.5 trillion, much lower than the $3.5 trillion bill sought by progressives.

Why it matters: Manchin's price cap highlights his unwillingness to compromise as progressive Democrats threaten to block a companion $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure due for a vote Thursday.

  • In a 50-50 Senate, losing Manchin's vote places many components of the President Biden’s "Build Back Better" agenda — and progressive priorities like universal preschool and free community college — in danger for congressional Democrats.
  • Manchin said that if progressive Democrats want a higher number, they should “elect more liberals.”

What they’re saying: "I've been very upfront and very fair, and the bottom line is $1.5 [trillion] ... for a reconciliation bill,” Manchin told reporters during a midday news conference.

  • He said that for any of the components left out of a $1.5 trillion package, Democrats should "take that on the campaign trail next year, and I'm sure that you'll get many more liberal progressive Democrats with what they say they want."
  • “I don't fault any of them who believe that they're much more progressive and much more liberal, God bless them. And all they need to do is, we have to elect more liberals,” the senator said.

Manchin told reporters he shared his $1.5 trillion topline with the president last week, and that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), another key player, also is aware of his number.

  • He once again took issue with a pivotal promise made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
  • She pledged that she'd bring both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill up to a vote together:
  • "No two bills should ever be linked together to the point where you're going to let perfect be the enemy of the good,” Manchin said.

But, but, but: Progressives say they've already compromised from a much higher number — $6 trillion — to the $3.5 trillion bill.

  • They're afraid of helping pass the $1.2 trillion bill and then having their priorities abandoned if the $3.5 trillion bill never makes it to the president's desk.

Go deeper

Biden meeting with key House Democrats

President Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden is hosting two separate in-person meetings with moderate and progressive House members at the White House on Tuesday as infrastructure negotiations continue, White House officials told Axios.

Why it matters: This is the latest in the president’s efforts to appease the more volatile parts of his party’s coalition as Democrats wrangle over how to cut his social spending proposal down from $3.5 trillion to closer to $2 trillion.

Oct 19, 2021 - Podcasts

Why China’s hypersonic missile test matters for the U.S.

China tested a hypersonic missile last August, according to new reporting from the Financial Times. China says it wasn't a nuclear-capable missile, but a routine spacecraft check. So how worried should we be?

  • Plus, more tension between the Joes: Biden and Manchin.
  • And, remembering former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Guests: Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Hans Nichols.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats brace for staredown over paid family medical leave

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senior House Democrats are braced for battle with the Senate over whether paid family medical leave — a key priority for progressives — will be included in President Biden’s final budget reconciliation bill, lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated he wants to cut the program to reduce the bill's price tag. “Paid family and medical leave must be in the final package,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Axios on Monday.