“I could see myself going below $ 3.5 trillion, but we’ll see how far $ 1.5 trillion goes,” said Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “He has confirmed that is as far as he will go, which is pretty sad if you ask me. ”
Manchin delivered another dose of reality on Thursday to his fellow Democrats, after POLITICO obtained an internal memo he provided to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in July, which outlined his demands for the social spending program of the democrats. The party used the previously scheduled caucus lunch to get on the same page.
Democrats looked tense as they walked into the private meeting, but inside the room the atmosphere was “oddly cold,” as one participant put it. Manchin didn’t even take part in the lunch. Still, much of the conversation focused on the way forward for Democrats, both on their social spending plan and the upcoming fight with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling.
“There is a sense of optimism about ‘we’ll get there’, but the point of frustration and lack of clarity is: how soon,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “J encouraged everyone: “Now is the time for a deal.
The talks come as President Joe Biden’s national agenda falters, with the fate of the bipartisan physical infrastructure package unclear in the House and moderates like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) still on the move. to negotiate with the White House on the spending plan.
Sinema released a statement shortly after the release of Manchin’s note, revealing that she had given numbers and details to Biden and Schumer in August. She stressed, once again, that $ 3.5 trillion was too high for her to bear.
This still leaves Democrats in a bind, wondering if they start with Manchin and Sinema’s proposals and try to negotiate them, or if they should fight to preserve their current proposal to extend child care, l education, health care coverage and climate action.
Asked about a turnover of 1.5 trillion dollars, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Replied: “There are two things I need to know. I need to know the number and I also need to know what is in it. So until you know both, you can’t answer.
While Democratic leaders have presented an overly optimistic timeline for the physical infrastructure bill and social spending program, Cardin and other Democrats have nonetheless said they would have liked to see more progress at this point. .
“I wish we were further ahead, but getting major policy changes is going to be difficult,” added Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). “We’re just going to continue. “
Despite the lack of a clear path forward, Democrats publicly insist they will stick to Biden’s agenda, even as progressives privately bristle over Manchin’s latest demands. As one Democratic aide noted of the Democratic Senate caucus’ frustrations with Manchin: “They don’t talk. But they storm.
” Sir. Manchin has his point of view on the subject, I have another point of view: that is to say that $ 3.5 trillion is actually a conservative figure given the climate crisis we are facing ” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “I very much hope that the day will come sooner rather than later when we pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill which is very, very, important. And pass a strong reconciliation bill.
Schumer has long insisted on a “two-track” strategy, under which Democrats would not pass the bipartisan physical infrastructure package without the social spending bill. And while Schumer signed Manchin’s proposal, he handwrote, “I’m going to try to talk Joe out of a lot of them. “
On Thursday, however, senators refrained from criticizing Schumer, acknowledging the divergent views within the 50-member caucus and the fact that he cannot lose a single vote on the social spending plan.
Schumer “came out of this discussion with Senator Manchin hoping he could continue to convince him to do more,” said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “Of course, I would prefer to have this discussion a few months ago. Joe wasn’t ready to have this discussion two months ago, that doesn’t preclude our ability to do something big.
But while a Democratic senator has described Manchin’s proposal as an “opening offer,” West Virginia gives no indication that it is ready to change course. At a press conference Thursday, he suggested that if Democrats wanted to pass legislation that costs more than $ 1.5 trillion, they should elect more Liberals.
Progressives, meanwhile, widely view the social spending plan as their greatest chance to implement their priorities this Congress, and potentially for Biden’s entire term. But even if they promise to deliver, despite internal hurdles and resistance above the top line, no one expects a good path to success.
“It’s tough,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “There are a lot of pieces to that. A lot is at stake. And what is hard is hard.