President Biden on Friday acknowledged that he wasn’t sure he could get Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on board to pass his sweeping climate and social spending package but said he would be talking to him at the start of next week.

Biden was asked after an event at the White House on Friday afternoon whether he could get Manchin to vote for the package with national inflation as high as it is.

“I don’t know the answer to that. I’m going to be talking to him at the beginning of the week,” Biden answered.

The president argued that the legislation, which would provide funding for free preschool, lower prescription drug costs and extend the expanded child tax credit, would reduce inflation.

“I think if you look at what most people, most of the economists are saying, this Build Back Better bill is not going to increase inflation, it will diminish inflation,” Biden said. “It has a negative impact on inflation. It doesn’t raise inflation, but that’s hard for people to think about right now.”

Biden described inflation as a “bump in the road” but noted that gasoline and natural gas prices are expected to ease in the coming months.

“It’s a real bump in the road. It does affect families. When you walk into the grocery store and you’re paying more for whatever you are purchasing, it matters,” Biden said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later Friday that the White House and Manchin’s office have been in touch “at a staff level” and reiterated that Biden and Manchin would speak early next week. It was not immediately clear whether the two would speak by phone or in person at the White House. 

Manchin is a wild card on Biden’s spending package. He has repeatedly raised concerns about inflation and argued Democrats should pump the breaks on passing the bill.

Labor Department data released on Friday found that consumer prices increased 6.8 percent in the year leading up to November, representing the highest annual inflation rate since 1982.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is hoping to pass the legislation before the upper chamber leaves for the holidays. The White House is on board with that timeline.

Manchin’s concerns, however, have raised doubts about the likelihood that the package will pass before the end of the year. Biden needs all Senate Democrats, including Manchin, to vote in favor of the package in order for it to pass without Republican support.

The roughly $2 trillion package is a cornerstone of Biden’s domestic agenda, containing provisions to tackle climate change, expand access to home care and preschool, lower drug costs and provide additional support to middle class families.

The White House and some economists have argued that Biden’s legislation will not contribute to inflation and will ease costs on families by reducing the price of health care and other costs.

Psaki noted Friday that some costs have declined since the data for the consumer price index released Friday was collected.

“What we’ve seen in recent days is gas prices are coming down from their peak,” Psaki said, noting those declines were “not captured in the data.”

Tags Build Back Better Charles Schumer Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin

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