Democrats will likely have a framework for a deal on President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar reconciliation bill this week, according to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who spent the weekend at the president's residence in Delaware to hammer out a compromise with Democratic leadership.
"Having it finished with all the t's and the i's and everything you know crossed and dotted that will be difficult from the Senate side because we have an awful lot of text to go through, but as far as conceptually we should, I really believe," Manchin said Monday.
If Democrats reach a deal this week, and Manchin says they "should," that would allow the House to finally advance a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which progressive lawmakers have so far refused to support without an agreement in the Senate to pass the larger spending bill.
Democrats had proposed a $3.5 trillion spending bill to fund the Biden economic agenda, which originally included free two-year community college, paid family leave, universal pre-K education, elderly home care, Medicare and Medicaid expansion, and a host of climate policies supported by progressives. But with inflation rising to record levels, Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) objected to spending that much money so soon after Congress passed several multitrillion-dollar coronavirus relief packages.
With a 50-50 Senate majority, Democrats need every member of their party to vote for the spending bill in order to pass it via budget reconciliation. By using their votes as leverage, the two moderate Democrats have forced Biden to compromise down to a spending bill that will cost somewhere around $2 trillion, ditching free college tuition and other programs. But a final deal remains elusive. Manchin has said the bill should cost no more than $1.5 trillion.
Biden invited Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to his home in Delaware this weekend to continue negotiations on a deal.
"We're all working in good faith. I've been talking to everybody as you know. I think we've got a good understanding of each other better than we ever have," the West Virginia lawmaker said Monday.
Manchin told reporters he had concerns with Biden's plan to expand Medicare to cover vision, hearing, and dental plans, which are "not fiscally responsible," but he would not say what specifically was discussed over the weekend.
"I'm not going to talk about what's in and what's out right now because there's an awful lot of moving parts. But there's a lot of concerns we have on a lot of different things," Manchin said.
"We have a moral obligation to provide for those who have incapacity ... everyone else should be able to help and chip in, so that's my mindset," he added.
Manchin's position puts him in direct opposition to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who speaks for many progressive lawmakers. On Saturday, Sanders said Medicare expansion was "one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill."
"It's not coming out," he declared.
Manchin is also opposed to a clean energy proposal to penalize electric utilities that fail to meet clean energy requirements. West Virginia's economy relies on its coal industry, which would face a severe burden from those proposed regulations.
He is, however, open to a proposal to create a new so-called wealth tax on unrealized capital gains.
Even though Manchin's concerns have not been fully addressed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday she expects a framework for a deal by the end of the week. If progressives keep their promises, then once the Senate reaches a deal on the reconciliation bill, the House can pass the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.