Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-W.Va.) said President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE urged a group of moderate lawmakers to come up with a top-line number they could support for Democrats' sweeping reconciliation bill.

Manchin, a key vote in the Senate, was part of a group of House and Senate moderates who met with Biden on Wednesday afternoon as Democrats try to figure out a way to bridge their divides on the $3.5 trillion package. 

“He just basically said find a number you’re comfortable with,” Manchin said, adding that Biden’s message was to “please just work on it. Give me a number.”

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Manchin told reporters that he didn’t give Biden a number he could get behind and that Biden didn’t give him a hard deadline for when moderates needed to turn over that number.

“The quicker the better, but I’m not sure if they’re going to get there,” Manchin told reporters, adding that they could get a reconciliation bill “eventually.” 

“I think a good reconciliation bill could be done whenever,” he said.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSchumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Democrats' filibuster gambit unravels MORE (D-Mont.), who also attended the meeting with Biden, said moderates and progressives were going to try to work out a framework, potentially by as soon as next week. 

"I think it would be great to have a framework on Monday, and I think the president would agree with that," Tester said. 

House and Senate Democrats approved a budget resolution earlier this year that allows them to pass a bill of up to $3.5 trillion without GOP support in the Senate. 

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But that price tag has run into hurdles from moderates, including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBriahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-Ariz.), who have said they can’t support a bill of that size.

But progressives are loath to go lower.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Briahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE (I-Vt.) told reporters after the meeting that “the top line has come down. It started at $6 trillion.”

The dual meetings come after days of high-profile squabbling among Democrats over the path forward. 

The $3.5 trillion bill is part of Biden’s two-part spending strategy. The other piece is a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate and that the House could vote on next week. 

House progressives are threatening to sink the bill unless it moves alongside the sweeping reconciliation legislation, which is expected to include top priorities such as combating climate change and expanding Medicare.

But the reconciliation bill won’t be ready to go by Monday, the deadline that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Reps. Massie, Grijalva test positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) previously agreed to with House moderates for giving the infrastructure bill a vote. 

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Sanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans MORE (D-Ore.), who attended the meeting with other progressives, said they raised to Biden that they viewed the Sept. 27 timeline as "arbitrary" and that Biden committed to discussing it with leadership. 

"The president is going to have conversations with the Speaker and the Senate majority leader, and they're going to talk about what's the full range of possibilities," Wyden said. 

Manchin, speaking to reporters, warned progressives against holding the Senate-passed infrastructure bill “hostage.” Manchin was a part of the Senate bipartisan group that negotiated the bill in August. 

“It’s still a shame, it truly is a shame, that they’re using that as a hostage toward this,” Manchin said.

“To hold up a bill that every part of this country needs doesn’t make any sense at all,” Manchin said, adding that Biden “would love to see that bill to move forward.”