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Joe Manchin dictates terms to Democrats: Spending bills can't fund abortions

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has put congressional Democrats' plans to expand Medicaid on ice by affirming that the massive spending bill funding President Joe Biden's economic agenda must include the Hyde Amendment to gain his support.

Manchin on Wednesday told National Review that the amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, must be included in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill or he won't vote for it.

"Yeah, we're not taking the Hyde amendment off. Hyde's going to be on," Manchin said.

"That's dead on arrival if that's gone," he added.

House Democrats have added a new Medicaid-like program to their version of the reconciliation bill. The program would provide government health insurance for low-income residents of the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. But the text of the legislation currently lacks the Hyde Amendment, which guarantees that federal programs do not fund abortions.

Manchin, who says he is a pro-life Democrat, indicated he will oppose the plan as long as that prohibition on funding abortions is excluded from the bill.

The West Virginia lawmaker is also frustrating progressive Democrats by opposing the size of the reconciliation bill. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has also publicly opposed the hefty spending bill

"I can't support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March," Manchin said in a statement about the ongoing spending negotiations.

Given the 50-50 Democratic majority in the Senate, Manchin's vote is needed to pass any legislation via budget reconciliation, which gives him a de facto power to dictate the terms of what can pass in the Senate, assuming Republicans remain united in opposition to the Democratic agenda. To win his support and pass a bill funding most of Biden's priorities, progressives will need to compromise on issues like the Hyde Amendment and the amount of spending included in the bill.

Manchin expressed optimism this week that Democrats will reach an agreement that can pass without Republican support.

"I think we can get a good bill done. I really do, and work in good faith," Manchin told reporters Wednesday. He indicated that repealing parts of the 2017 tax cuts President Donald Trump signed into law is a good starting point for negotiations since Democrats are united on raising taxes.

"I think there's a lot of good things — I want to do a tax overhaul. The one thing you understand that all Democrats agreed on, and that's not a lot of things that we all agreed on right, the 2017 tax cuts were unfair and weighted to the high end," he said.

But progressives don't seem to be on board. Several House Democrats have vowed to vote against a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill Manchin negotiated earlier this year unless the Senate can first reach an agreement on the reconciliation bill. House Republican leaders are whipping their conference against the infrastructure bill to ensure that if it comes up for a vote, it will fail, embarrassing Democratic leaders and highlighting the divisions in their party.

A vote on the infrastructure bill is expected sometime Thursday, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may cancel the vote if it becomes clear there is not enough support to pass the bill.

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