Manchin doubles down as House puts paid leave in spending bill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) doubled down Wednesday on his opposition to including paid leave in the spending bill even as House Democrats prepare to stick it into their legislation and send it to the Senate.

Manchin told reporters that their questions about the decision — announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier Wednesday — was the first he was hearing of the decision. An aide confirmed that he hadn’t seen the House plan.

“That’s a challenge, very much a challenge,” Manchin said, adding that the spending bill is the “wrong place” for a paid leave proposal.

Manchin instead argued that paid leave should be done outside of reconciliation, a process Democrats are using to attempt to advance their bill without GOP support. The arcane budget process comes with strict rules on what can, or can’t, be included in the bill. 

“I want to support paid leave. I want to do it in a bipartisan way. I’ve talked to [GOP Sen.] Susan Collins. I’ve talked to colleagues on both sides. We both agree something can be done,” Manchin said.

“Let’s do that in a proper [way]. We’re trying to force it through reconciliation, which has guardrails and rules and regulations. Let’s do it and do it right,” he said.

House Democrats announced on Wednesday that they were putting paid leave back into bill. Pelosi said the decision came “at the urging of many Members of the Caucus.”

The provision will provide four weeks of permanent parental and medical leave, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the language. 

If House Democrats pass the social and climate spending legislation with the paid leave proposal in the bill, they would effectively be forcing Senate Democrats to decide if they will try to strip it out.

Any senator can force a vote on trying to change the spending bill once it’s on the Senate floor, and most amendments can be adopted by a simple majority. That could allow all Republicans and Manchin to try to remove the paid leave provision. 

Democratic senators are still working to try to get Manchin on board with a paid leave proposal, though he’s signaled for weeks that he’s not supportive of including it in the spending bill. He added this week that he thought a structure he supports, having the cost split between employers and employees, would face a Senate rules challenge. 

“It’s very exciting,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), adding she thought the House plan “might” survive the Senate, though she acknowledged she hadn’t seen the plan. 

“I think the House decided it was just really important for the economy,” Gillibrand added.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he was “going to pull out all the stops” to try to get it into the bill. 

“I think it is a disgrace that we are essentially only the Western, industrialized nation that hasn’t figured it out,” he added.

Tags Build Back Better plan Joe Manchin Kirsten Gillibrand Nancy Pelosi paid leave Ron Wyden Susan Collins

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