Manchin says he could back reconciliation bill this year

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money — Democrats craft billionaire tax with deal in reach Democrats face critical 72 hours Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Manchin nixes Medicare expansion MORE (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that he could support passing a Democratic-only spending bill by the end of the year, even as he blasted a multitrillion-dollar top-line spending bill envisioned by progressives as "fiscal insanity." 
 
"I think we can get a good bill done. I really do, and work in good faith," Manchin said, when asked if he could support a Democratic-only bill this year.
 
"I'm fine. If we can get it done, sure. Let's roll our sleeves up and do it," Manchin added, when asked again about the potential timeline.
 
Manchin's embrace of getting a bill passed this year comes after Axios reported that he wanted to hit pause on the sweeping Democratic-only package until 2022.
 
Manchin didn't specify when this year he thinks Democrats need to act but noted that they weren't under pressure to meet a "one-week, two-week deadline."
 
"The child tax credit ends at the end of the year. Everything else goes way into next year and 2023," Manchin said. "Do a pause and let's really take our time to look ... and hopefully we'll get there."
 
Manchin suggested that overhauling the 2017 GOP tax bill should be the starting point for the reconciliation bill, because it unifies the party. Democrats are planning to change the corporate tax rate, which was set to 21 percent under the GOP bill, as well as make other tax changes. 

“I think there’s a lot of good things — I want to do a tax overhaul. The one thing you understand that all Democrats agreed on, and that’s not a lot of things that we all agreed on right, the 2017 tax cuts were unfair and weighted to the high end," he said. 
 
"Let’s fix that ... and then if there’s some good things we can do, and the president has some things we really want to do. We can work out a child tax credit," Manchin added. 
 
Manchin pointed to the assistance for children and help for seniors as two broad areas that could be included in the spending bill but reiterated that he wanted means testing to put income-related caps on the assistance. 
 
"He has a belief that he wants to help people. And I believe that I want to help people and I believe together we can. There's different ways to help them, OK?" Manchin said, referring to Biden. 
 
"People have to help themselves when they can. But some people are down low and how you pick them up out of poverty, I understand that," Manchin added. "Let's see where the need really is." 
 
He added that "anything that can be added should be means tested," adding that he doesn't want the U.S. to move to an "entitlement society." 
 
Manchin's comments, made to reporters as he was leaving the Capitol after a vote, come as the House appears poised to pull a bipartisan roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Manchin helped negotiate in the Senate. 
 
Progressives are threatening to sink the bill unless they can get an agreement on what will be in the spending bill that Democrats want to pass under reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate. 
 
House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats face critical 72 hours Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — 'Too late to evacuate' after wildfire debris Greene fined a third time for refusing to wear mask on House floor MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters that Democrats need an agreement on the legislative text of the reconciliation bill in order for the bipartisan Senate bill to come up, something Manchin warned earlier Wednesday that Democrats would not hit by Thursday. 
 
Manchin's comments also came minutes after he released a lengthy statement that took aim at his progressive critics, while also offering few new details on the specifics of what he could support in the sweeping spending bill. Biden urged a group of moderates, including Manchin, to come up with a top-line number, but Manchin has yet to say what could get him on board. 
 
“What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity,” Manchin said in the statement

Manchin added that the social spending bill at the heart of Biden’s agenda should be driven by “what we need and can afford” and not to “reengineer the social and economic fabric of this nation or vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.”

“I cannot  and will not  support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces,” Manchin said, while adding that he hopes a path forward can be found.
 
Manchin's statement sparked immediate pushback from progressives. 
 
Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled Matt Stroller: Amazon's Bezos likely lied under oath before Congress Which proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? MORE (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters that Manchin probably helped boost progressive opposition to passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill in tow. 

"He either needs to give us an offer, or this whole thing is not going to happen. ... We're a 'no' on the bipartisan [infrastructure] bill until we get a vote on the reconciliation bill. ... If anything it makes me more confident. And I can tell you that his statement has just probably created at least a bunch more votes on the House floor against a bipartisan bill," she said.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats face critical 72 hours Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Manchin nixes Medicare expansion Manchin shutting down Sanders on Medicare expansion MORE (I-Vt.) also took issue with Manchin saying that the bill would cost trillions. Democrats are hoping to pay for some, if not all, of their bill including by raising taxes on larger corporations and some high earners. 

"If Mr. Manchin is concerned about the deficit ... I'm sure he understands that this bill is not going add one nickel to the deficit because it's all going to be paid for by demanding the wealthy and large corporations ... pay their fair share of taxes," Sanders said. 

But Manchin, asked about the argument from Sanders, said he thought the bill would ultimately cost more than $3.5 trillion over the long haul. 

"It's going to cost $5 or $6 trillion ... because those programs will never go away," he told reporters. 
 
Mike Lillis and Alexander Bolton contributed