Democrats attempt to ‘rebuild’ after Manchin pays $ 2,000,000 bill

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats struggle to put the pieces back together after Senator Joe Manchin effectively crushed President Joe Biden’s big home policy bill. But they face serious questions as to whether the $ 2 trillion initiative can be reshaped to win its crucial vote or whether the party will face a devastating defeat.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday pledged that the chamber would vote early in the new year on Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” as it stands now, so every senator “has a chance. to make his position known in the Senate, not just on television. “It was a biting reference to Manchin’s sudden television announcement. against the Sunday bill.

Biden and Manchin spoke later on Sunday, according to someone familiar with the call, first reported by Politico. It was cordial and respectful, said the person who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

But the conservative West Virginia Democrat and his party are so far apart, relations so bruised after months of failed talks, we don’t even know how they get back to the negotiating table, let alone revive the sprawling 2,100-page social services and climate change bill.

“We’re going to work like hell to do it,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, repeating the phrase several times in a briefing but never saying how.

The setback casts deep doubt on Biden’s legislative effort at a critical time, wrapping up the end of the president’s first year and ahead of Congressional midterm elections when Democrats’ weak grip on Congress. is at risk.

Coupled with strong Republican opposition, Manchin’s vote is vital in the 50-50 split Senate on this initiative and others, including the Democrats’ priority voting rights legislation that Schumer has also promised to be subject to early voting.

From the White House, Psaki adopted a more conciliatory tone than his brutal weekend reaction to Manchin, saying Biden is a “longtime friend” of the senator and that the president is focused on the future.

Vice President Kamala Harris told CBS News “the stakes are too high” for “any particular individual.” She said, “It’s about getting the job done. “

Imbued with the politics of a state Biden decisively lost to Donald Trump, Manchin has little to gain by aligning himself too closely with his fellow Democrats, raising new questions about whether he still has his place in the party.

In a radio interview on Monday, he reiterated his position that the social and environmental bill provided for far too much government spending – on child care, health care and other programs – without enough funding. restrictions on income or working conditions.

But the longtime Democrat was less clear when asked if the party still had room for him – describing himself as “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate”.

Manchin said: “Now if there are no Democrats like that, they have to push me where they want.”

After months of negotiations with White House and Senate staff members as well as with Biden and his fellow senators, he lambasted the harsh tactics against him by those he said “just beat people alive and think that they will be submitted “.

The next steps remain very uncertain for the president and his party. Biden returned to Washington from his Delaware home, and lawmakers weighed their options with Congress over the holidays for the holidays. The president’s reputation as a seasoned lawmaker who wants to show that the country’s government can work is at stake with his proposals.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., A leader of the Progressive Caucus, spoke with Manchin early Monday, but warned colleagues the senator was an untrustworthy partner who “went back on his word.”

Jayapal said Democrats were working with the White House on other ways to achieve the goals of the bill through executive or administrative action, without legislation.

“We can’t make the same mistakes twice,” she said on a conference call with other progressives. “We cannot hang the future of millions of Americans on the words of one man.”

The White House appeared to be interested in Manchin’s preference for a reinvented bill that would tackle a few major priorities, for a longer duration, rather than the multi-faceted, sweeping version adopted by the House.

But it will be extremely difficult for progressive and centrist Democrats to restore confidence to launch a new round of negotiations that has devoted much of Biden’s first year in office to what is now essentially a collapsed effort.

For example, Manchin wants to allow social programs for the full 10 years of a standard budget window – rather than just a few years like Democrats would to cut the price. This change would force painful cuts elsewhere in the package.

Despite Biden’s long court with Manchin, the senator has made it clear that the Democrats’ bill does not match his view of the country’s needs, even though many residents of his state are on low incomes, with some in desperate need of help. health, education and child care that the bill would provide.

The comprehensive package is among the largest of its kind ever considered in Congress, freeing up billions of dollars to help American families across the country – almost all paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

For families with children, it would offer free kindergarten and childcare assistance. There are subsidies for health insurance premiums, lower prescription drug costs, and expanded access to Medicaid in states that do not yet offer it. The bill would launch a new hearing aid program for the elderly. And it includes more than $ 500 billion to reduce carbon emissions, a number considered the largest federal spending ever to fight climate change.

Potential new deadline for Biden and his party comes with expiration of expanded child tax credit which sent up to $ 300 per month directly to the bank accounts of millions of families. If Congress doesn’t act, the money won’t come in January.

Talks between Biden and Manchin soured in a final round last week that turned heated, according to a person who was granted anonymity to discuss the private talks.

In a startling repudiation from his party, Manchin warned the president’s staff for 20 minutes that he was about to announce his opposition to the bill.

It recalled the famous favorable vote by Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, which killed President Donald Trump’s efforts in 2017 to repeal the health care law enacted under President Barack Obama.

Republicans hailed Manchin as a maverick, but Democrats and the White House have been ruthless in their criticism.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck a chord during an event in her San Francisco district. “It will happen,” she said. “I am not at all discouraged. “

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Associated Press editors Alan Fram, Darlene Superville, Colleen Long and Hope Yen contributed to this report.


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