Manchin Throws Weight At Reconciliation Talks With Vague Press Conference Citing Concerns

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 08: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) heads to a vote in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. The spotlight on Sen. Manchin grew even brighter after declaring that he will vote against the Democrats voting rights bill, the For the People Act, in his op-ed that was published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail over the weekend. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) heads to a vote in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on June 8, 2021. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) reminded everyone that his vote remains crucial for passing the reconciliation bill during a hastily arranged Monday press conference at the Capitol.

Manchin called the presser after stating that he wanted to “clear up a lot of things” related to his position on the infrastructure bill. The White House has pushed for votes on both the reconciliation package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill this week.

But Manchin declined to offer any clarification of his position, other than to suggest that he is not yet ready to vote in favor of Biden’s signature Build Back Better reconciliation package.

“I’m open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward,” Manchin said. “But I’m equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country.”

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Manchin took no questions, adding only at the end that he would not “negotiate in public” and intended to continue negotiating in “good faith.”

“We must allow time for analysis and complete transparency,” Manchin said of the reconciliation package, which currently stands at $1.75 trillion in new spending over the next 10 years.

Both White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) responded with statements suggesting they were unfazed by Manchin’s comments.

“We remain confident that the plan will gain Senator Manchin’s support,” Psaki said of the President’s reconciliation framework.

“The president says he can get 51 votes for the bill, we are going to trust him,” Jayapal told CNN. “We’re tired of continuing to wait for one or two people.”

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement listing the ways in which the reconciliation package already addressed Manchin’s stated concerns, while saying that “Democrats look forward to passing” the two pieces of legislation without specifying when.

Manchin all but stated that he is not yet ready to vote on the White House’s reconciliation framework, released last week by the House Rules Committee.

But he did direct most of his remarks towards House progressives, who he criticized for refusing to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week. Many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they would not vote for the bipartisan bill until Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) made their support for the reconciliation package clear.

“Holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill,” Manchin said, referring to the bipartisan package.

Those same House members had signaled that they were ready to vote in favor of the reconciliation package this week, so long as Manchin and Sinema signaled their support to President Biden.

At another point during Monday’s press conference, Manchin demanded that the reconciliation package’s real cost be stated before he votes. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score the bill; the deficit hawk-leaning Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget issued a statement hours before Manchin’s press conference demanding that the bill be scored before Congress holds a vote.

Manchin echoed that line, and accused the White House of releasing a framework full of “shell games” and “budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount” were the programs to be extended permanently.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) pointed out minutes after Manchin concluded his remarks that the bill needs a score from the CBO anyway in order for the Senate parliamentarian to consider the bill.

“None of what was said was exactly new,” he tweeted. “The tone alarmed people, but substantively nothing has changed.”

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