Manchin balks at climate and tax elements of bill on Biden’s agenda, but backs health care provisions

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and his team told Democratic leaders on Thursday that he was unwilling to support key climate and tax provisions in a sweeping bill on the agenda of Biden, according to a Democrat briefed on the conversations.

Instead, Manchin, a key centrist who holds the Senate swing vote 50-50, said he was only willing to back a filibuster-proof economic bill with the drug pricing and a two-year extension of funding under the Affordable Care Act, the source says.

Manchin’s decision upends lengthy negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., most likely forcing the party to abandon policies on climate change and new taxes and dealing a blow to some of the President Joe Biden’s priorities ahead of an already difficult midterm election landscape. for Democrats this fall.

Manchin “made it clear that he would not support a bill in August ‘containing energy or climate provisions or a bill ‘closing tax loopholes exploited by the wealthy’ and big corporations,” despite his support for those specific things throughout the negotiation,” the Democrat was told about the talks.

Democrats hope to pass a bill before September to prevent large increases in insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, which could be hard to avoid if they don’t act quickly.

“Political headlines are meaningless to the millions of Americans struggling to afford groceries and gas as inflation soars to 9.1%,” the doorman said. Manchin’s word, Sam Runyon, to NBC News in a statement. “Senator Manchin believes it is time for leaders to put aside political agendas, reassess and adapt to the economic realities facing the country to avoid taking actions that fuel the fire of inflation. .”

A Democratic aide familiar with the talks said Manchin had let Democratic leaders know he could support a package including climate and tax provisions as long as they were paid for – or he just wanted a drug bill prescription and ACA money.

The negotiations left party leaders deeply frustrated. The source briefed on the talks called it a reversal for Manchin after backing a provision last week to raise some taxes on high earners to expand Medicare solvency.

“Manchin has now withdrawn its support for including this provision in the bill,” said the source, who requested anonymity to candidly discuss the sensitive negotiations between Manchin and Schumer.

“Schumer and his team have been presenting legislation to Senator Manchin and his team for months,” the source added, including “major concessions and a willingness to include things that weren’t in the bills.” precedents”.

With no hope of winning Republican support for the package, Manchin’s position leaves Democratic leaders with a grueling choice: They can either drop the package altogether or pass the provisions it supports, which congressional Democrats overwhelmingly support.

“We know that what we can pass on is basically the price of drugs – on Medicare. We know this one. Can we do more? I do not know. But I’m very, very careful,” Manchin told reporters this week.

Democrats had insisted funding to help tackle climate change, a high priority for many, would be paid.

“If we make a real commitment on the climate front and pay for it by getting big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, that will help us,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The likely failure of clean energy funding is a major setback in efforts to mitigate climate change, which scientists say will require aggressive action to shift away from fossil fuels to avoid disastrous effects. The Build Back Better Act passed by the House approved $555 billion to fight climate change, but Manchin rejected the bill and reduced the proposed funding to $300 billion in recent negotiations. Now Congress may not pass climate finance this year.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., expressed dismay at Manchin’s position.

“I will not sugarcoat my disappointment here, especially since almost all climate and energy issues have been resolved,” he said in a statement. “This is our last chance to prevent the most catastrophic and costly effects of climate change. We cannot go back in another decade and prevent hundreds of billions – even trillions – of economic damage and undo the inevitable human toll.

Manchin forced Democrats to drastically cut the legislation after voting against the broader version in December, leaving the party one less vote in the Senate. He had suggested a smaller bill with energy and climate funding, taxes and prescription drug prices. Now these settings have changed again.

But Manchin still seems committed to the drug pricing provisions. He told NBC News on Tuesday that policies aimed at reducing prescription drug costs “are going to be a big help.”

“Drug pricing is the most – that’s the one thing everyone seems to agree on. Let Medicare negotiate, lower prices,” he said.