Pelosi, Progressive Dems Losing Patience on Spending Package Talks as Manchin Says ‘Not in a Rush’

© REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNSTU.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) pauses during remarks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. November 1, 2021.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) pauses during remarks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. November 1, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.11.2021
Following a closed-door meeting with Democrats on Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the final issues halting passage of the dual spending bills central to the Biden administration’s agenda could be ironed out in a couple of hours, setting up the possibility of a vote by the end of the week.
“I'm not announcing a vote,” Pelosi told reporters as she left the meeting on Tuesday morning, “but I did say that this could be resolved by the end of the day.”
Finalizing the bill’s contents would enable its wording to be updated and finalized as well, setting up the possibility of a vote by Friday if Pelosi’s timeline holds up.
The meeting aimed at shoring up agreement on the final parts of the Build Back Better Act, which is presently valued at $1.75 trillion over the next 10 years. However, centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose support is necessary in the almost evenly split Senate, has held up passage for weeks as he consistently negotiates the cost downward.
"I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact that it will have on our national debt, our economy, and most importantly, all of our American people," Manchin said on Monday. Taxes on corporations and the wealthy are intended to pay for the bill’s cost, but Republicans have cast doubts on its ability to do so.
The largest part of the package, intended to address climate change, has remained the most contentious. Manchin, a two-term senator and former governor of coal-rich West Virginia, receives the most donations from the coal, oil and gas industries of any US lawmaker.
Other issues still being settled include drug pricing changes for Medicare, the US’ national health insurance program for seniors and certain disabled groups. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Tuesday afternoon that an agreement had been reached to allow Medicare Part D and Part B to negotiate drug prices.
“Hopefully, [the negotiators] will finish tonight. I’m being optimistic,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). “I think we’ve got to act this week.”
Despite the optimism of Pelosi’s team, Manchin said Tuesday it would take “quite a while” to pass the bill, which is being pushed through via a budget reconciliation rule that allows it to avoid the bill-killing filibuster.
“I just think it’s going to take quite a while. You’re talking about overhauling the entire tax code. That is tremendous. And there needs to be input. We’re not in a rush right now,” Manchin said. “The rush was trying to get everything before the president went overseas,” referring to Biden’s attendance at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, UK, currently underway.
Democrats had also hoped that going into Election Day, which is November 2, they would have the monthslong negotiations settled, giving them an achievement to present to voters.
Parallel to the massive Build Back Better social spending bill is a second infrastructure bill, officially called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which together form the core of Biden’s post-pandemic economic recovery program. While the infrastructure bill could be more easily passed, the Democrats’ left wing fears that voting on them separately will result in the party’s right wing refusing to support the social spending bill at all.
Manchin on Monday accused progressives of holding the infrastructure bill “hostage” to the social spending bill, saying it wouldn’t convince him to support it.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a democratic socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, has also shown impatience with the endless negotiations, which were supposed to have yielded a vote in late September.
"This process cannot go on week after week month after month,” he said on Tuesday morning. “It’s finally got to come to an end. And I will do everything I can to see that we get a vote on the floor of the Senate as soon as possible. Hopefully next week."
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