Manchin Warns White House on Size of “Reconciliation” Bill

The clock is ticking toward the promised House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package — due by September 27 — and it is still unclear where the larger, one-party social spending and climate package stands.

One thing is becoming clear: That bill will not reach $3.5 trillion, if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has anything to say about it. (Which, as an essential vote, he does.)

The Senate is not in session this week, but negotiations continue on the size of the package that Democrats will aim to pass through the reconciliation process. Manchin “has privately warned the White House and congressional leaders that he has specific policy concerns with President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending dream — and he'll support as little as $1 trillion of it,” Axios reports.

The WaPo writes, “With no room for error, Democrats have been forced to confront the reality that they may have to compromise some of their own ambitions, not to overcome opposition from Republicans but rather to quiet dissent among their own ranks.” Roll Call reports that “progressives want the infrastructure and reconciliation bills linked,” but moderates say the party “should claim the win from the infrastructure bill and then have a debate about the size and scope of the reconciliation package.”

As a practical matter, this makes sense. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is popular, and would fund desperately needed infrastructure upgrades. There is no reason to delay.

While some progressives have said it makes little difference whether the infrastructure bill is passed now or several months from now, the devastation from Hurricane Ida over the past week underscores the urgency, since the infrastructure bill features historic investments in resilience for our coasts and our power grid.

President Biden also has a personal incentive to press Democrats to get infrastructure done first. William Galston writes in his WSJ column that after an awful August, Biden “needs a win as soon as possible. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is the only realistic prospect of a quick victory.” Galston says Biden “must urge progressives to support the infrastructure bill,” or else their party will face “certain disaster in the midterms.”

Only Biden can get this done. CNN reports that House Republicans are facing pressure from the right to vote against the bill, and some in the GOP who want to back the bill say Democrats’ insistence on linking the two measures makes the vote tough. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) said, “If they continue to be linked and they continue to be pushed as a package, it makes it pretty difficult for even [a] pro-infrastructure Republican like me to vote for it.”

This is the moment where President Biden needs to rally the entire Congress—Democrats and Republicans — to get the 218 votes necessary to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill on September 27.

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