Manchin, Sanders to seek deal on Biden agenda

Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin warns about inflation as Democrats pursue Biden spending bill Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families MORE (D-W.Va.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale MORE (I-Vt.) are seeking to reach a deal on a path forward for President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE’s economic agenda by the end of the week.

The negotiation between the Senate’s most important centrist and leading progressive was described as a “breakthrough” by one Democratic senator amid stalemated talks over a Senate-passed infrastructure bill and a larger social spending package being crafted in the House and Senate.

“We’ve made breakthroughs,” the Democratic senator said, describing a sense of optimism shared by multiple Senate Democrats after a lunch meeting where Manchin said he would work directly with Sanders.

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“Universally there was a desire to get this done by the end of this week,” said a Democratic senator who participated in the meeting and noted that Manchin indicted he will try to reach agreement with Sanders on a framework for the reconciliation package by week’s end.

Manchin and Sanders met for the second time this week Tuesday evening just off the Senate floor, a sign that they’re working quickly to get a deal as soon as possible.

“I think this thing has dragged on for a very long time and the American people want it to be resolved,” Sanders said after the meeting, adding he and Manchin will meet again this week.

“I think there’s a strong feeling within the caucus that we either fish or cut bait to get this thing done or we don’t get it done but that it does not continue to drag on forever,” he said.

Sanders and Manchin over the weekend had seemed to be at each other’s throats, with Sanders writing an op-ed in a West Virginia newspaper decrying Manchin’s position on the economic negotiations.

The Sanders op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail argued that giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower prescription drugs and expanding Medicare benefits — something that Manchin has expressed opposition to — would help West Virginians.

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“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes.’ We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin,” Sanders wrote in a jab at his colleague.

That triggered a furious response from Manchin, who is known to dislike interventions by other politicians in his home state.

He hit back in a tweet accusing Sanders of wanting “to throw more money on an already overheated economy while 52 other senators have grave concerns about this approach” and dismissed Sanders as an “out-of-stater.”

But on Monday, Sanders and Manchin posed for some awkward photos outside the Capitol after they met and spoke to reporters about their efforts to overcome their differences.

Sources said the new talks between the two would also involve Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBuild Back Better Is bad for the states  Dole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-N.Y.).
One person familiar with the meeting said the talks will take place between Manchin, Sanders and centrist Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaManchin warns about inflation as Democrats pursue Biden spending bill Minimum tax proposal drives wedge between corporate interests Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-Ariz.), with Schumer acting as an emissary between Sanders and his centrist colleagues.

The source described the negotiation as a “shuttle diplomacy,” with Schumer coordinating the talks.

“There’s broad consensus throughout the caucus about getting something by the end of the week,” the source said, adding that Senate Democrats “from left to right” voiced support for agreeing on a framework in the next few days.
Schumer later described the discussion at the caucus lunch as “spirited” and “passionate” and confirmed that Manchin is on board with trying to get a deal by week’s end.

“We had a very spirited discussion at our lunch. Passionate, strong and there was universal, universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement and we got to get it done and want to get it done this week,” he said.

The positive news for Democrats came as Biden and his staff held separate rounds of talks at the White House with Sinema as well as groups of House progressives and centrists.

House progressives have blocked a vote on the infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate, saying they want the Senate to first vote on the larger spending package that Democrats want to pass as a budget reconciliation package to get around a GOP filibuster.

Manchin and Sinema have been Democratic holdouts to a deal, arguing for a smaller package than the $3.5 trillion measure favored by Sanders. They also disagree over a variety of political proposals within the package, including on climate change.

Democrats hope to move forward with the Biden agenda by the end of the month, a daunting timetable.
If Sanders and Manchin can reach a deal, it could make it easier for reluctant lawmakers from both wings of the party to rally around a measure.

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Both are seen as having the political clout to bring votes to a deal, and their embrace of a measure would resonate with House progressives, in the case of Sanders, and centrists, in the case of Manchin.

Leaders in both chambers have no room for error given the Democrats’ slim majority in the House and the 50-50 Senate.

Manchin says he doesn’t want to spend more than $1.5 trillion though at one point didn’t rule out the possibility of a spending deal in the range of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion.

Sanders, who initially pushed a $6 trillion top-line number for the reconciliation bill, insists the package spend $3.5 trillion “at a minimum” to address the wealth gap between rich and poor Americans.

Schumer said there would be multiple meetings with different players to reach a deal on a framework.

“There’s lots of meetings going on,” the Democratic leader said. “There’ll be all kinds of meetings, together and separately, to get this done, but we’re really — the pace has picked up. The desire to get it done is strong.”

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Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenators urging federal investigation into Liberty University's handling of sexual assault claims Crucial talks on Biden agenda enter homestretch Senate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents MORE (D-Pa.), who wants to include hundreds of billions of dollars for long-term home health care for seniors and people with disabilities in the reconciliation package, said this week’s talks between Manchin and Sanders are a promising development.

“Bernie is Budget chair, has direct responsibility, and he worked so hard to get that original agreement on $3.5” trillion, he said, referring to Sanders’s position as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “They made clear their differences, so [meeting] makes a lot of sense.

“There’s a collective sense that we need to have a sense of urgency, not simply a debate about policy but really focusing on getting agreement,” he added.

Asked on Tuesday about recent skirmishing between Sanders and Manchin, Schumer said: “What I’ve told our caucus is everyone is going to be disappointed in certain things but everyone’s going to be glad about certain things.”

This story was updated at 7:27 p.m.