Reconciliation Negotiations Resurrected As Manchin Finally Talks Specifics

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to reporters outside of the U.S. Capitol on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
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September 30, 2021 3:36 p.m.

The reconciliation package is risen. 

The package has died and come back to life multiple times, amid growing anger at Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for seemingly objecting to the bill without naming what exactly about it they don’t like. 

A Thursday Politico report showed that while the press corps and much of Manchin’s Democratic cohort were in the dark, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had received a short memo of Manchin’s requirements back in late July. They involved a $1.5 trillion topline and a demand not to begin debate on the reconciliation bill before October 1. 

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Both men signed the bottom, though Schumer also appeals to have scrawled “I will try to dissuade Joe on many of these” underneath his signature. 

Manchin confirmed today, surrounded by dozens of reporters, that $1.5 trillion continues to be his starting point in the negotiations. 

While that’s much too low for progressives — Sen. Rich Blumenthal (D-CT) called it “problematic” — at least it’s a number for the caucus to work with. 

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said after the news of what he called the “secret communication” broke that Manchin’s figure “will be changed.”

Not to be upstaged, Sinema blasted out a statement asserting that she too has shared her specific demands with Schumer and the White House, though she did not detail them publicly. 

Over on the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has already discussed Manchin’s new position with her worried progressive members.

“The Speaker has committed to us that nothing will be agreed to, because she knows we have to sign off on it,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), spokesperson for the progressive caucus, told reporters. “There’re just too many of us that have been very clear that we are going to deliver on the entirety of the President’s agenda.”

For days, the reconciliation process has stalled out amid Manchin and Sinema’s tight-lipped refusal to say what topline price tag they’d accept. Meanwhile, House moderates had eked a concession out of Pelosi to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan, initially slated for Monday and now still tentatively planned for Thursday. That date rushed closer as the reconciliation package spun its wheels in the mud.

Those conditions set up the showdown now forming around the bipartisan infrastructure vote. If it does happen today as scheduled, it seems unlikely to pass — Jayapal told reporters that at least half of the 96-member House progressive caucus plans to vote it down, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that his whipping had not revealed enough Republican defectors to make up for that deficit. 

But Manchin’s numbers have injected new life into the reconciliation negotiations. House progressives have long said that as soon as the Senate passes a reconciliation package, they will happily also vote for the bipartisan infrastructure plan, maintaining the two-track scheme that Democratic leadership has long seen as the surest path to both bills passing.

“All kinds of things could happen very quickly,” Jayapal said. “All I can say is we said that we’re gonna stay here all weekend if we need to to see if we can get to a deal, but if we can’t, then we’ll have to continue to work on it until we do.”

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