Democrats criticize Manchin for lack of progress on spending bill

Democratic senators expressed their displeasure at a lunch Tuesday with the senator. Joe manchinJoe Manchin On The Money – Presented by Citi – Progressives ignore Manchin warning Cori Bush criticizes Manchin for opposition to spending bill: ‘Anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-Immigrant’ Overnight Energy & Environment – Presented by The American Petroleum Institute – Glasgow Summit begins MORE (DW.Va.) and with the lack of progress on the $ 1.75 trillion social and climate spending plan that remains in limbo due to Manchin’s objections to a variety of issues.

Democratic lawmakers said they took a look at Manchin after he accused his colleagues on Monday of using “shell games and budget tricks” to mask the real cost of the legislation and then added insult to injury by testifying Tuesday. that he was in no rush to reach an agreement. .

Senators did not address Manchin’s defiant press conference directly, but did let him know that the slow nature of the talks, in which he is a key player, is a big problem.

“There is enormous frustration with the slow pace. We have to figure this out and get it done, ”said a Democratic senator who summarized the meeting.

While Democratic leaders have set their sights on reaching a framework agreement by the end of October, senators say it is becoming clear that a bill is still weeks away from completion.

“There is enormous complexity on the climate issue, the drug issue, the tax provisions. None of that is well defined, so we know that we are very far from having a bill that we can vote on, ”added the senator.

A second Democratic senator who attended Tuesday’s lunch said his colleagues are upset that priorities they have worked on for years, such as a national paid family leave program or the expanded child tax credit, are being dropped or lowered because of Manchin’s concerns.

Their sense of frustration increases when they see Manchin having enormous power over subjects that they feel he is less familiar with than they are.

Its. Kirsten gillibrandKirsten Gillibrand Biden sparks high-stakes fight over spending framework Franken dismisses challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Democrats seek adjustments to .75T framework MORE (DN.Y.) said Manchin’s position that a national paid vacation program should be enacted with Republican support under regular order and left out of the reconciliation package didn’t make much sense.

“I think he doesn’t understand all the dynamics of each of the senators who are interested in paid leave and what each one wants,” he said. “I have been working with these senators on this for five years and today they are reading it. So he’s not as aware of their views or what they want as I am. “

Gillibrand was seen chasing Manchin in the Senate Tuesday, making repeated attempts to convince him to support compromise language in paid family leave, despite Manchin telling him “I’m done,” according to a senator who witnessed the exchange.

In addition to their resentment, Democratic senators complain that Manchin has not yet signaled that he will support any final versions of the Build Back Better Act that emerge, despite optimistic pronouncements from President BidenJoe Biden Biden Administration Targets Methane Emissions McConnell Criticizes Possible Payments to Separated Migrant Families Poll: 50 percent of Republicans don’t think their vote is accurately counted MORE.

“I think we’ll be in good shape,” Biden predicted confidently after visiting Capitol Hill on Thursday, the same day the White House released a $ 1.75 trillion mark after weeks of intense talks with Manchin and the President. centrist senator. Kyrsten CinemaKyrsten SinemaCori Bush criticizes Manchin for opposition to spending bill: ‘Anti-black, anti-child, anti-women and anti-immigrant’ Manchin frustrates Democrats with latest White House outburst ‘confident’ in that Manchin will support the reconciliation framework MORE (D-Ariz.), The two main strongholds of the Senate.

Biden doubled down on his prediction on Tuesday when he told reporters covering his visit to the COP26 climate conference in Scotland: “I think Joe will be there.”

The president said that Manchin “will vote for this if we have in this proposal what he has anticipated.”

But Manchin on Tuesday cast aside any impression that he was tacitly supporting the White House framework, even though it was designed to address his concerns about overall cost, Medicare expansion and a national paid family leave program.

Manchin told reporters that he never approved the proposal, adding: “I think it will take a long time” to reach an agreement.

That landed with a thud among Democratic senators who last month set the October 22 goal of reaching a framework agreement with Manchin.

Among other provisions, Democrats want to add language to the bill that would grant legal status to millions of unauthorized immigrants and initially hoped to give Medicare broad authority to negotiate lower prices for a wide range of drugs, but none of the goals it is considered probable. known at this point.

Democrats announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on the price of prescription drugs that advocates call a step forward, but that is notably less far-reaching than previous proposals.

Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Bernie sandersBernie Sanders Sanders Responds to Manchin Spending Concerns Manchin frustrates Democrats with the latest outburst of the Democratic race to reach an agreement on the price of prescription drugs MORE (I-Vt.) He did not immediately endorse the settlement, which would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for a limited number of drugs and limit out-of-pocket costs for seniors with Medicare.

“Let me take a final look at it,” he said.

Sanders argued at lunch Tuesday that the bill should be as “strong” and “robust” as possible, according to a senator at the meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Charles schumerChuck Schumer Democrats Face Wrath From Women Over Loss Of Paid Leave Ocasio-Cortez Presses Biden On Student Debt: ‘You Don’t Need Manchin’s Permission For Those’ 535 ‘Presidents’ With Veto Power: Why The budget agreement remains elusive MORE (DN.Y.) acknowledged Tuesday that the prescription drug deal doesn’t go as far as many of his fellow Democrats want, but nonetheless praised the compromise as “a big step in helping the American people deal with the price. of drugs “.

With anxiety and irritation mounting within his group over the slow progress, Schumer was under pressure to show progress on a big issue, Democratic senators said.

“By allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices on Part B and Part D, this agreement will directly reduce out-of-pocket drug spending for millions of patients every time they visit the pharmacy or doctor,” Schumer told reporters after the caucus meeting.

But if the deal is upheld, Medicare’s negotiating authority over drug prices will be much more limited than Sanders and other advocates asked at the beginning of the debate.

Initially, they envisioned saving between $ 500 billion and $ 700 billion by empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prices. The savings are now projected to be a fraction of that amount.

“There is quite a bit of frustration,” said a third senator who attended Tuesday’s lunch. “There is frustration with particular issues like immigration and prescription drugs and then there is frustration with Manchin.”

The senator explained that colleagues are getting angry with Manchin because “no one knows what his final position will be.”

“There are a lot of angry members,” the senator added, saying that a compromise reached between Democratic leaders and Sinema on a proposal to cut prescription drug costs “is nowhere near what I thought we should have done.”

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