Schumer rejects Manchin’s call for pause on Biden plan

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is rejecting a call for Democrats to hit pause on President Biden’s spending plan, indicating that they are sticking to an ambitious timeline.

“We’re moving full-speed ahead. … We want to keep going forward. We think getting this done is so important,” Schumer told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.

Schumer’s remarks come after moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) urged his colleagues to hit “pause” on Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan, which is at the heart of Democrats’ economic and legislative agenda.

Manchin, during a West Virginia Chamber of Commerce event and separate Wall Street Journal op-ed, said Democrats should slow down, pointing to concerns about the debt and inflation as well as unrelated issues including the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not,” Manchin wrote in the op-ed.

But congressional Democratic leaders have laid an ambitious timeline to get Biden’s spending bill to his desk. Schumer has set a Sept. 15 deadline for roughly a dozen congressional committees to be finished drafting their portions of the $3.5 trillion bill.

House Democrats are also expected to take up the Senate-passed $1 trillion bill by Sept. 27, under a deal crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and key moderates. But because progressives are warning they won’t support the Senate bill without the reconciliation package also going to the floor, it puts pressure on Democrats to also have the $3.5 trillion plan also ready for a vote.

Schumer stuck by that timeline during Wednesday’s call, telling reporters: “We are moving forward on this bill.”

In order to get the bill through the Senate, Schumer will need total unity from all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, giving Manchin leverage to make demands for changes to the party’s strategy.

Manchin didn’t specify how long he thinks his party should hit “pause.” But he’s also taken issue with the $3.5 trillion top-line figure.

Manchin has said he can’t support the price tag, and Axios reported on Tuesday that the highest he’s willing to go is $1.5 trillion.

A spokeswoman for Manchin didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the discussions. Earlier this year, Manchin indicated that he was open to a figure of between $1 trillion to $2 trillion.

But any push to go lower than $3.5 trillion would spark fierce angst among progressives.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate Budget Committee chairman, on Wednesday indicated that the bill had to be at least $3.5 trillion.

“That $3.5 trillion is already the result of a major, major compromise,” Sanders told reporters.

Tags Bernie Sanders budget reconciliation Charles Schumer Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi
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