The Sausage Making: Manchin Appears To Be The Problem On Nearly Every Remaining Issue

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 27: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) leaves the U.S. Capitol after a vote October 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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October 27, 2021 7:07 p.m.

Democrats have been saying for days (weeks!) that they’re close to a deal on reconciliation — with just a handful of outstanding issues. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has the distinction of being the problem lawmaker blocking progress on just about all of them.

His recalcitrance likely forced a big proposal out of the package Wednesday evening, according to multiple reports. 

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are vowing not to give up, though. “We are not going to allow one or two men to tell women, millions of them in this country, that they can’t have paid leave,” Murray told reporters. 

The two cornered Manchin on the floor of the Senate, and Gillibrand came out saying he promised to “remain open-minded” to their ideas. Manchin, though, suggested right afterwards that the reconciliation bill “is not the place to do it,” indicating that he may let Republicans kill the provision for him later. 

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Outstanding Issues

  • Prescription drug negotiations: Right now, negotiation is swirling around which small group of drugs to include. This is a major priority for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told a group of us yesterday that he would not accept some “fig leaf” masquerading as a strong proposal. But some Democrats, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), are cool to it.
  • Expanding Medicaid: Many Democrats, including the senators from Georgia, want to expand coverage in Republican-led states that did not do so willingly under the Affordable Care Act. Manchin is the problem here.
  • Medicare benefits: The fight here has been focused on how to deal with dental benefits (the most expensive among the vision, hearing and dental coverage that is under consideration). Manchin again is not keen on this; Sanders wants it badly.
  • Climate: We know a topline — around $500 billion, maybe a bit more. That’s a high enough number to satisfy some in the climate hawk space. It’s not yet clear what that’ll consist of, though. The methane fee seems to be teetering somewhere between life and death thanks to (you guessed it!) Manchin.
  • Immigration reform: Democrats are still trying to woo the parliamentarian with a Plan C, but we’re not seeing movement so far.
  • Payfors: Democrats seem to have nailed down the corporate minimum tax, no mean feat. But the billionaires tax is not enjoying such a warm reception, and now Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) (in addition to Manchin) has aired doubts about the IRS bank reporting proposal.

The Blown Fake Deadline

  • Yesterday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told me that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wanted a deal by the end of today. That’s not going to happen. Sanders confirmed as much on his way out of a meeting with President Joe Biden Wednesday evening.
  • This only means crashing up against fake deadlines, but they’ll still make life harder for the Democrats. On October 31, the highway funding bill will expire, setting up a redux of the fight we covered a few weeks ago: House and Senate moderates will want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill alone; progressives will not. 
  • A potential wrinkle is emerging that Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wants a back-to-back vote on both completed bills; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says it should be enough to just have a framework of the reconciliation package (generally understood to be a topline number and the main programmatic elements). 
  • A sense of urgency also came from Biden’s coming European trip. He leaves tomorrow, and Democrats really wanted to send him with some stuff to brag about, including some climate advancements to tout as he attends the United Nations Climate Change Conference. 
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