Sen. Joe Manchin III, a key swing vote for President Biden’s political agenda, refused to say Sunday whether he would vote for the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
Mr. Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, was asked during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether he would pacify progressive angst by promising to vote for the $3.5 trillion plan.
“I can’t really guarantee anybody, and I have not guaranteed anybody on any of these pieces of legislation,” Mr. Manchin said. “They would like to do more, yeah you can do what you can pay for … let’s start the process and then see where it goes.”
The comments come amid a standoff between progressive Democrats and Mr. Manchin over the big-spending package.
At the moment, some on the far-left are threatening to derail the White House’s bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, which Mr. Manchin helped craft, unless assurances are made that the progressives’ $3.5 trillion proposal will pass as well.
The bigger legislation contains a slew of liberal priorities, including climate-change regulations, anti-poverty initiatives and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Since the plan is unlikely to garner Republican support, the only hope for its passage is via budget reconciliation.
That process allows spending bills to avert the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority of 51 votes. Because it takes just one Democrat to kill the deal, Mr. Manchin, who represents the deep-red state of West Virginia, is seen as the likeliest to flip.
Understanding that situation, progressive lawmakers are holding the infrastructure package hostage to pressure moderates, like Mr. Manchin, to back reconciliation.
“If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass a reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat.
Mr. Manchin, however, is unfazed by such threats, arguing that a compromise was possible, provided everyone laid out their priorities.
“We should just work in good faith and be honest with each other, so no one is misled in any way, shape, or form,” he said. “And there should be no quid pro quo, ‘you do this, I’ll do this.’”
A deficit hawk, Mr. Manchin added that he was not opposed to a reconciliation package focusing on “human infrastructure,” focusing on health care, but did not believe Democrats were being truthful about the costs.
“There’s a lot of need out there for the ‘human infrastructure,’ I understand,” Mr. Manchin said. “But some of these programs that they’re going to be putting in place could be in perpetuity … with perpetuity [the total package] could be $5 trillion or more.”