WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s national agenda suffered a major setback on Monday when Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would not pledge to support a $ 1.75 trillion cadre on social spending and climate change unveiled last week.
“Although I have worked hard to find a way to compromise, it is obvious: Compromise is not good enough for many of my colleagues in Congress. It is all or nothing, and their position does not seem to change. unless we agree on everything, “Manchin said at a press conference.
” Enough is enough. It is time for our elected leaders in Washington, all of us, to stop playing games with the needs of the American people by holding a critical infrastructure bill hostage. “
Manchin spoke four days after Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill to unveil a $ 1.75 trillion proposal that would provide free preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, expand home care for the elderly and provide tax credits to businesses investing in clean energy sources.
The package was half the size of Biden’s previous $ 3.5 trillion target, after abandoning the priorities of some progressives, including new paid family leave benefits and key climate control provisions .
Manchin described the bill as being filled with “shell games” and “budget gimmicks” that would end up costing far more than its $ 1.75 trillion price tag.
Reacting to Manchin, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted: “We are still discussing and working on important details and making good progress.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement: “We remain confident that the plan will win the support of Senator Manchin.”
But the news has reduced the chances of passing either bill this week. Schumer did not say when he would have the votes necessary to pass the legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters passing it this week was “hope.”
Manchin demanded immediate action from the House on a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill that the Senate passed in August with the backing of 19 Republicans.
But progressives in Biden’s Democratic Party have demanded that no vote be taken on the measure until the broader bill to expand social programs and tackle climate change is first guaranteed to be adopted by the Senate.
Manchin’s challenge has further complicated the Democrats’ efforts in a month as they face an imposing legislative to-do list.
In addition to hoping to pass the two major bills, Congress faces critical deadlines in the next five weeks to avert a government shutdown, potential embarrassment for Democrats, and avert an unprecedented debt default on the government. federal government with its catastrophic economic consequences.
BIDEN’S LEGACY ON THE LINE
Despite Monday’s setback, negotiators continued to work on the spending bill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said Monday: “We made real progress” over the weekend in introducing a provision to the measure that would lower the prices of prescription drugs.
Biden traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday to advocate with Democratic lawmakers to support the two bills.
“I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the majorities in the House and Senate and my presidency will be determined by what happens next week,” Biden said in a closed-door meeting with Democrats House, said a source close to his remarks.
The Senate is split 50-50, with Democrats holding a majority thanks to the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. This means that any Democratic senator has an effective right of veto.
At the press conference, Manchin criticized House progressives for twice blocking passage of the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill that would rebuild roads, modernize airports and ports in shipping and provide broadband service to underserved rural areas.
There had been growing optimism since Biden’s private meeting with House Democrats on Thursday that the two bills, totaling more than $ 2.75 trillion, could move quickly in the House, possibly as early as this week. .
Progressives came out in favor of the Biden plan, saying they just wanted to read the full text of the revamped bill being drafted and receive a solid promise that Manchin and his fellow moderate Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema fully agreed. .
Conversations over the weekend were upbeat, and Progressive Congressional Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said on Monday that she hoped the legislation would pass this week.
“The president came to caucus and assured us that he would get 51 votes in the Senate for this deal he negotiated with Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema,” Jayapal told CNN after Manchin’s statement. “We are tired of continuing to wait for one or two people. We trust the president that he will get 51 votes for that.”
Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney
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