Manchin’s in the middle, with Biden’s agenda hanging in the balance


Mr Manchin, whose demand that the aggregate amount not exceed $ 1.5 trillion led to a frantic effort to reduce the cost of the bill, maintained he was keeping an open mind for the sake of fairness. to Mr. Biden and the Democratic leadership.

But he’s been adamant about many of the priorities progressives hold dearest, such as Mr. Sanders’ desire to add visual, hearing and dental benefits to Medicare.

“Bernie and I have met for the past three days at least an hour a day, getting to know each other differently than ever before,” Manchin told Biden on Sunday. “He has my respect. I know who he is and where he comes from. I just disagree with respect.

That resistance hasn’t stopped Democrats from trying to influence him. These days, Mr. Manchin typically finds himself huddled with colleagues seeking his support – or to change their mind – on some element of the social policy bill. On Monday night, it was Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, along with Senators Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and other climate hawks seeking to recover a royalty on methane emissions and other expenses that Mr. Manchin had opposed.

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Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he had requested a meeting with Mr Manchin to discuss how to raise taxes to pay for the plan. He reminded reporters that the two had worked together on pension legislation.

After his breakfast with Mr Biden and Mr Schumer, Mr Manchin responded to a call from Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No.3 House Democrat, who urged him to support a proposal to cover the cost of expanding Medicaid in states that had not done so under the Affordable Care Act. Mr Manchin said it would be unfair for the federal government to cover these costs for some states, while others, like West Virginia, have expanded their Medicaid programs and only received a 90% grant. .

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Democrats have good reason to woo Manchin’s support. They remember how difficult it was to win his vote on the $ 1.9 trillion pandemic assistance plan passed this year, including his last-minute efforts to cut unemployment benefits included in the measurement. (While Mr Manchin ultimately voted yes after securing the concessions he sought, grueling negotiations led to the longest open Senate vote in modern history.)