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Then-Vice President Joe Biden conducts a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Joe Manchin in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call

President Biden failed to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to agree to spending $3.5 trillion on the Democrats' budget reconciliation package during their Oval Office meeting on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Defying a president from his own party — face-to-face — is the strongest indication yet Manchin is serious about cutting specific programs and limiting the price tag of any potential bill to $1.5 trillion. His insistence could blow up the deal for progressives and others.

  • Axios was told Biden explained to Manchin his opposition could imperil the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that's already passed the Senate. Biden's analysis did little to persuade Manchin to raise his top line.
  • Manchin held his position and appears willing to let the bipartisan bill hang in the balance, given his entrenched opposition to many of the specific proposals in the $3.5 trillion spending package, Axios was told.
  • While the two left the meeting having made little progress, and are still some $2 trillion apart, the conversation was friendly and they agreed to keep talking.

What they're saying: "Sen. Manchin is an important partner," said Andrew Bates, deputy White House press secretary. "We do not discuss the contents of private meetings."

Flashback: In early March, with Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in danger of failing, he called Manchin and told him, “If you don’t come along, you’re really f**king me,” according to a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Between the lines: While Biden has claimed he's pursuing a dual-track approach on the two spending bills, he's occasionally jumped tracks — like when he essentially threatened to veto the bipartisan transportation bill moments after endorsing it.

  • Two days later, Biden withdrew his threat and said in a statement that a veto threat “was certainly not my intent."
  • His latest comments to Manchin linking the two bills underscore a political reality on Capitol Hill: House progressives will sink the $1.2 trillion bipartisan transportation bill if Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) don’t agree to massive amounts of new spending in the reconciliation package.
  • Biden wants to use the Democrat-only reconciliation package to expand the social safety net as part of his Build Back Better Agenda.

The big picture: Biden predicated his presidency on his ability to appeal to Republicans and help heal the country.

  • He also counted on dusting off some signature Senate moves to convince his former Republican colleagues to help him usher in a new, post-Trump, bipartisan political world.
  • With the exception of a bipartisan China bill, the president has had little success persuading Senate Republicans to support his priorities. Opposition hardened after he jammed through a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill in March.
  • In recent days, Republicans seem even more recalcitrant, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisting Democrats raise the debt ceiling by themselves. and Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) all-but-freezing the Senate's confirmation process.

Go deeper: The White House said Thursday night the president spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about "their ongoing coordination and outreach around making the case for building an economy that delivers for the middle class."

Editor's note: This political affiliation for Sen. Mitch McConnell was corrected to show he's Republican.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program at which he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest-serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.

Former Sen. Bob Dole dies

Former Sen. Bob Dole in 2019. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement.

Driving the news: Dole, a revered figure in U.S. politics and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, served in the Senate for 27 years, including 11 years as GOP leader. Earlier this year he revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Former D.C. Guard alleges Army Generals lied about Jan. 6 response

Members of the National Guard and Capitol police keep a small group of pro-Trump demonstrators away from the Capitol following the insurrection on Jan. 6. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former D.C. National Guard official has alleged that top Army generals "lied" to Congress in their testimony on the U.S. Capitol riot, Politico first reported Monday.

The big picture: Col. Earl Matthews, who was serving on Jan. 6, alleges in a memo that the official version on the military response is "worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist" and that the Pentagon inspector general's November report on it features "myriad inaccuracies, false or misleading statements, or examples of faulty analysis."

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