Joe Manchin says negotiations on Biden's big bill will be 'starting from scratch' as Democrats scramble to save their economic agenda
- A $1.8 trillion offer from Manchin to the White House on Build Back Better is no longer on the table.
- "We'll just be starting from scratch, whenever they start," Manchin told Insider.
- Manchin appeared more interested in advancing an elections reform bill rather than the economic legislation.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on Thursday that negotiations on President Joe Biden's signature economic legislation will start again at square one — if and when it ever gets off the ground.
"We'll just be starting from scratch, whenever they start," Manchin told Insider.
"I'm hoping to talk to everybody. We'll just start with a clean sheet of paper and start over but we're off that," he told reporters, referring to a $1.8 trillion compromise Manchin offered the White House in mid-December that didn't include an extension of the popular child tax credit monthly checks to parents. The Washington Post first reported it.
He also appeared far more interested in forging a bipartisan elections reform bill with negotiations underway on the Electoral Count Act. "We can work on everything," he told Insider, adding that voting rights are "the thing we want to make sure we get done quickly."
The White House did not immediately respond to comment. White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in a Wall Street Journal interview published Wednesday that administration officials aimed to restart talks with Manchin "privately and directly."
But Manchin doesn't appear any closer to getting behind the legislation since he came out against it a month ago, effectively torpedoing it. He's been one of two Democratic holdouts on the $2 trillion social and climate spending legislation, alongside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Without their votes, Senate Democrats can't approve the bill over unified Republican opposition.
Manchin shot off a familiar litany of concerns ranging from the growing national debt to the ongoing pandemic he argued needed to be addressed before he could get onboard Biden's big bill. "The main thing we need to do is take care of the inflation," Manchin told reporters. "Get your financial house in order, get a tax code that works. Take care of the pharmaceuticals, you're gouging the people with high prices, we can fix that."
He declined to say whether the now-expired expanded child tax credit needed to be dropped from the bill for it to get his support. "I don't know why you keep asking," Manchin told Insider. "I'm not going to negotiate with you."
Resistance from Manchin is causing Democrats to start reckoning with the likelihood of more painful cuts to assuage his concerns and get their legislation through the 50-50 Senate. They have already slashed their ambitions from the initial $3.5 trillion budget resolution and cramming a variety of new social, education, and climate programs into a $2 trillion package.
Biden said he was open to scaling back many parts of the House-approved bill, given Manchin has imposed a $1.75 trillion ceiling on all new federal spending over a decade.
"I'm confident we can get pieces, big chunks, of Build Back Better signed into law" he said. The president later suggested that the expanded child tax credit may have to be dropped entirely from the package. That one-year initiative provided up to $300 in monthly checks per child to the vast majority of families until it expired last month.
Manchin's offer had also included roughly $500 billion in climate spending, Affordable Care Act subsidies, and universal pre-K.
"These are people who I think have undermined the President of the United States"
Since Manchin came out against the economic spending plan, Democrats have been left picking up the pieces and trying coalesce around a slimmer plan that gets the backing of all 50 Democratic senators.
Some are infuriated at the snail-like pace of the negotiations. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is pinning the blame on the centrist holdouts for dragging out a process that kicked off in the summer.
"It's not just this vote. These are people who I think have undermined the President of the United States," Sanders told reporters on Wednesday evening. "They have forced us to go through five months of discussions which have gotten absolutely nowhere."
Other Democrats are seeking to salvage some of their most cherished priorities, like the expanded child tax credit.
"We're gonna fight tooth and nail to keep it in," Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, an advocate of the program, told Insider. "Because it doesn't make any sense to raise taxes on the American people during COVID."
Democrats spent half of January making an aggressive push to pass voting rights legislation. But resistance from Manchin and Sinema on blowing a hole in the filibuster's 60-vote threshold caused the bills to fail in a pair of votes on the Senate floor late Wednesday.Read the original article on Business Insider