Sen. Joe Manchin III, who holds the power to scuttle President Biden’s proposed spending packages, confirmed on Thursday that he has set a limit of $1.5 trillion for his support of Democrats’ social welfare and climate package, less than half of what the president is seeking.
The West Virginia Democrat said $1.5 trillion is the top line for what “we can afford” without jeopardizing the economy.
“I believe in my heart that [amount is] what we can do with the needs we have right now — what we can afford to do without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality,” Mr. Manchin told reporters at the Capitol.
He reiterated that he supports spending on children and seniors.
The figure is less than half of the $3.5 trillion that Mr. Biden and most congressional Democrats had been envisioning, and would mean the left will have to dramatically scale back their hopes for creating a slew of new benefits and climate change initiatives.
Members of the far-left “Squad” quickly condemned Mr. Manchin‘s figure as insufficient.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, quipped that $1.5 trillion was enough “for one year.”
Rep. Cory Bush, Missouri Democrat, said the reduced spending would tell low-income Americans that “you all don’t deserve the investment in climate. You all don’t deserve two years of college.”
“Who is he taking the money from?” she asked.
Mr. Manchin said he had privately warned since July that $1.5 trillion is his limit, and reiterated that to Mr. Biden in the past week. He signed a document with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on July 28 outlining his spending limit and other conditions for his support, as first reported by Politico.
In the document, Mr. Manchin proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 25% from 21%, and the top tax rate on income to 39.6%. He said any revenue from the bill beyond $1.5 trillion must go to deficit reduction.
“Senator Manchin does not guarantee that he will vote for the final reconciliation legislation if it exceeds the conditions outlined in this agreement,” the paper reads in bold text.
No one should be surprised that he is not willing to support the full $3.5 trillion, Mr. Manchin said.
“I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I’m not asking [Mr. Biden] to change, I’m willing to come from zero to one.”
Mr. Manchin’s remarks add another complexity to the fate of Mr. Biden’s other top legislative priority — a bipartisan $1.2 billion infrastructure package that faces an uncertain fate in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she still wants to move forward later in the day with a vote on the package. But House Democrats on the Left have vowed to block it unless they can reach a deal with the Senate on the social welfare package — a prospect that appears challenging after Mr. Manchin’s remarks.
Known to never bring key votes to the floor that did not have enough votes to pass, Mrs. Pelosi promised centrist Democrats, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, that a vote on the stand-alone infrastructure bill vote would happen by Thursday after previously postponing the legislation on Monday.
The speaker would not say if she planned on delaying the infrastructure vote if there were not enough lawmakers supporting the legislation, which includes Republican defections in favor of the bill.
When pressed by reporters if she planned to have the vote on Thursday if she lacked the numbers, she replied, “I do not plan on not doing anything. I plan on moving forward in a positive way. … We’re on a path to win the vote.”
She added, “I don’t want to consider any option other than that.”