Manchin: ‘I think we’ll get a framework’ deal
Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a key negotiator in Democratic talks on President Biden’s social spending bill, on Tuesday predicted “I think we’ll get a framework” but warned “the devil is in the details.”
Manchin laid out his views on the talks during an interview hosted by The Hill’s “A More Perfect Union” festival.
Manchin said he called for a “strategic pause” on the reconciliation bill earlier this summer because he was worried about rising COVID-19 infections, rising inflation and what he called “the geopolitical fallout” of the nation’s exit from Afghanistan.
“I said with all the unknown, don’t you think we ought to hit the pause?” Manchin told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.
But now that the negotiations are in full swing, Manchin said he thinks he’ll reach a deal with his Senate Democratic colleagues.
“I think we’ll get a framework, but you know the devil is in details, and you got to see the text,” he said.
Manchin said meeting face to face with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and President Biden has helped move the process along.
“It helps tremendously. Anytime you know your colleagues, and the more you know them, the more you have in common that you didn’t think you had, the more that you want to work and cooperate together if you can,” he said.
Manchin said conversations with Sanders and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) have “helped tremendously.”
“I tell people, I say, I’m a compassionate capitalist,” he said. “Other people might not consider themselves capitalist. With that, then, we have to realize we have some differences.”
“I don’t want anything to happen right now because I think that we do need a pause. I’m in the minority there,” he explained. “I could just say, ‘No, I’m not going to do anything. I don’t even want to talk or negotiate,’ but I’ve been trying to look at and see everyone’s position.”
Manchin said another important motivation for him to participate in the talks is that he and all Democrats agree the 2017 Trump tax cuts “were weighted in the wrong direction and very unfair for the average American and working people in West Virginia.”
Manchin said he was willing to initiate the talks because of a desire to address what he saw as former President Trump’s unfair tax reform bill, but the proposed bill quickly spiraled into something much broader.
“This thing has grown to a complete, if you will, a total social reform. And I’ve always said this: You got to get your fiscal house in order to do any of the other things you’d like to do. You can’t dig the hole deeper,” he said.
Manchin said he supports investing in expanded prekindergarten and expanded child care but reiterated his concerns about expanding Medicare, which he warned faces insolvency in 2026.
“Medicare, 2026, insolvent,” he said. “I know when these trust funds go insolvent, people start getting cut back or they have to pay more into [what] their premiums would cost or basically they go to the doctor and a doctor says, ‘I’m not going to take Medicaid anymore or Medicare anymore because reimbursements are so low from the federal government,'” he said.
Manchin also explained his opposition to spending $150 billion on a Clean Electricity Performance Program, which he worried would phase out coal-fired power plants and leave the nation dependent on energy sources he views as less dependable.
“I’m against what I know doesn’t make sense,” he said, slamming the proposal to “pay the utilities … to basically go ahead and eliminate all our fossil [fuel] by 2030. The only thing I’ve been told by every utility company [is] ‘We’ll take your money, and we’ll try to hold the rates down for that eight years, but after that, we can’t guarantee your reliability and the prices will go sky high.’”
Manchin bristled at critics who think “just because I come from West Virginia, I’m just protecting my turf.”
“And that’s not the case. I’m protecting the viability and reliability of the energy grid,” he said, stressing the importance of “energy independence.”
Manchin also fielded a question about why he isn’t supporting a carveout of the Senate’s filibuster rule to pass voting rights legislation that he helped negotiate and that picked up the support of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Senate Republicans voted last week for the third time this year to block a debate on legislation to strengthen voting rights, even though Manchin made extensive efforts to modify the proposal to pick up some GOP support.
He argued that protecting the filibuster is also important to preserving democracy.
“In order to save democracy we better keep the filibuster because there’s only one thing that requires us to work together, and right now we’re so tribal in Congress that it’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s not who I am. It’s not how you get things done.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me that in 2006 the Voting Rights Act was basically voted on and reaffirmed unanimously and now you’re seeing we’re so far apart we can’t even agree on how we can protect the sanctity of voting,” he said.
“The easy thing to do is to get rid of the filibuster and do what you want. Guess what? We Democrats used it tremendously to our advantage against Donald Trump,” he noted. “I’m against getting rid of it now.”
The Hill’s “A More Perfect Union” festival is sponsored by Microsoft and Southern Company.
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