Joe Manchin will back just $1T in Biden’s $3.5T budget

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has privately warned the White House and congressional leaders that he can only support about $1 trillion of President Joe Biden‘s $3.5 trillion budget, a new report revealed on Wednesday.

The West Virginia senator is open to going up to $1.5 trillion, sources told Axios

Manchin’s line in the sand puts Democratic leaders in a tough spot. 

The progressive wing of the party wanted a higher number to fund more social programs, climate initiatives and health policies so are unlikely to support a lower figure. And they could renew their threat not to support a bipartisan infrastructure bill – that funds traditional projects like roads, airports and bridges – if they don’t get their $3.5 trillion. 

The issue will come to a head in the next few weeks as Congressional committees meet to work out the details of what will be in the package – including its final price tag and how it will all be paid for.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t answer a question on Tuesday on whether she’d entertain a lower number to appease Manchin and other moderates.  

But Biden expressed confidence he would get Manchin’s vote.

‘Joe, at the end, has always been there. He’s always been with me. I think we can work something out. I look forward to speaking with him,’ Biden told reporters Tuesday on the South Lawn of the White House after returning from seeing the damage from Hurricane Ida in New York and New Jersey

Manchin infuriated many Democrats last week when he called for a ‘pause’ on Biden’s budget plans, saying he can’t support them because of the price tag. He didn’t publicly give a figure he’d support but did leave open the option of supporting a lower figure.

Biden, meanwhile, prides himself on his personal relationships with lawmakers after spending nearly 40 years in politics.  It’s unclear if the president would entertain a lower number to get moderates on board. In the 50-50 split Senate, Biden needs every Democrat to vote for his plan. 

Pelosi, however, rebuffed Manchin’s call to ‘pause.’

‘Obviously, I don’t agree,’ Pelosi told CNN Tuesday.

She said the legislation’s price tag wouldn’t go above the $3.5 trillion but shrugged off a question if she’d have to lower it to appease Manchin and fellow moderate Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

‘Well you have to go talk to the Senate about that, but we’re going to pay for as much of it as possible,’ she said. 

President Joe Biden expressed confidence he'll get Democratic Senator Joe Manchin's vote for his $3.5 trillion budget plan

President Joe Biden expressed confidence he’ll get Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s vote for his $3.5 trillion budget plan

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin called for a 'strategic pause' in spending negotiations, citing its price tag

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin called for a ‘strategic pause’ in spending negotiations, citing its price tag

Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuffed Manchin's call for a 'pause' on the budget

Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuffed Manchin’s call for a ‘pause’ on the budget

Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are preparing for nightmare September where they try to negotiate the details of Joe Biden‘s $3.5 trillion budget, pass an infrastructure bill, raise the debt ceiling and fight over voting rights.

It begins this week when congressional committees meet to begin formally drafting the president’s ambitious social policy program but the passage of the trillion-dollar program is not guaranteed.

Last week, Manchin called for a ‘strategic pause’ in spending, saying he could not support the $3.5 trillion price tag. 

‘Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation,’ he wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.

‘A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions,’ he added.

The next few weeks will be crucial. 

Schumer has given his committees a September 15 deadline to finalize their part of the spending package. Then it will have to be negotiated among Senate Democrats, including Manchin and Sinema.

Manchin left the door open to supporting a smaller package that supports social programs like free pre-K, expanded paid family and medical leave and climate issues. But he said the amount of government spending tied to the coronavirus pandemic and fears about inflation had him worried about more money.

‘I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,’ he noted in his op-ed.

A number of House committees are meeting ahead of the chamber’s return to work out details on their end. 

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is negotiating details of the budget plan among his Democratic senators and trying to pass national voting rights legislation

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is negotiating details of the budget plan among his Democratic senators and trying to pass national voting rights legislation

As lawmakers craft the president’s ambitious $3.5 trillion budget plan, Democrats are already warring with one another over what to include in it at what level of funding, including the expansion of Medicare and paid family leave. 

And Democrats are still trying to lock down how to pay for the package, bridge divisions on shoring up the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicare, draft immigration reform language and iron out sections on climate change. 

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