Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday he is open to a social spending bill larger than $1.5 trillion, signaling the possibility that the moderate Democrat could soften his stance on the topline number following days of tense negotiations on President Biden’s signature piece of legislation.
"I’m not ruling anything out, but the bottom line is, I want to make sure that we’re strategic, we do the right job and we don’t basically add more to the concerns that we have right now," Manchin told reporters.
Manchin’s remarks followed several reports that Biden has pressed House progressives to accept a compromise topline of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion for his spending bill, which includes progressive-backed investments in social programs and green energy. Just days earlier, Manchin said it would be the "definition of fiscal insanity" to approve trillions in new spending despite funding shortages for social security and Medicare.
Biden Tuesday insisted yet again that he is a capitalist, even as he pushes billions in new spending Republicans are deriding as socialism. "I'm a capitalist," Biden told a crowd at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility in Howell, Michigan.
Biden and top Congressional Democrats have scrambled for days to broker a compromise between moderates and members of the House Progressive Caucus. Progressives say they won’t vote in favor of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the president’s full spending bill.
Manchin and fellow moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both said they will not accept a spending bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag. The impasse between moderates and progressives forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay a planned vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, jeopardizing a critical part of Biden’s legislative agenda.
While Manchin’s remarks suggested Democratic leaders are making progress on the negotiations, some differences remain. House Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., pushed back on Biden’s proposed compromise range during a virtual meeting Monday, pushing instead for a spending bill of at least $2.5 trillion, the Washington Post reported.
Biden has played a direct role in the ongoing talks, holding meetings in recent days with Manchin and Sinema as well as small groups of progressive and moderate House lawmakers. Democratic leaders are aiming to hold a vote on the revised companion bills by the end of this week.