WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats should curb the cost of their $2 trillion social and environment bill by choosing their top priorities, Sen. Joe Manchin said Monday, as he and President Joe Biden prepared to discuss how to advance the long-stalled package.
Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized Democrats’ decision to make many of the measure’s initiatives temporary to limit the bill’s price tag. Speaking to reporters, he said his party should pick its “highest priorities” and have each last the full 10-year life of the bill while keeping its overall cost below $2 trillion, a combination that seems unworkable at this point.
In his first public comments since a pair of government reports were issued last week, Manchin said one showing that inflation is rising at an annual rate of 6.8%, the most in four decades, was “alarming.”
He also expressed dismay at a Republican-requested analysis that said the legislation would add an additional $3 trillion to federal deficits if all its programs were made permanent. Democrats have derided that report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as ridiculous since they say they would find ways to pay for any extensions of the bill’s programs.
Manchin and Biden planned to talk by phone Monday afternoon, said a person who described the plans only on condition of anonymity.
Biden told reporters at the White House that when he talks to lawmakers, he tries to “convince them that what I’m proposing makes sense and is not inconsistent with what they believe.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hopes to finally move the legislation through the chamber by Christmas.
Manchin, a moderate, has pushed for months to curb the bill’s costs. He still wants to remove some of its proposals including a new program requiring paid family and medical leave for workers.
His support is crucial because Democrats will need all their votes for the 50-50 Senate to approve the legislation.
Other issues remain unresolved as well, such as whether the chamber’s parliamentarian will rule that provisions helping migrants stay in the U.S. should be removed because they violate Senate rules.
The House approved its version of the bill last month.
One reason for Democrats’ urgency is that unless the measure is approved by Dec. 28, the IRS won’t have time to prepare checks due Jan. 15 to millions of families that receive the child tax credit, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has said.