For weeks, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been clear that he thinks the massive $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend social reconciliation package is too expensive, proposing a $1.5 trillion topline spending limit counteroffer, outlining conditions in an agreement that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also signed in July that warns if the final bill exceeds his price tag, he will not vote for it.
On Thursday, Politico obtained the internal memo Manchin proposed to Schumer on July 28 that outlined his proposal for the Democrats’ social spending package. The memo signed by both Manchin and Schumer as an agreement revealed several spending conditions the centralist Senator outlining President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
“Senator Manchin does not guarantee that he will vote for the final reconciliation legislation if it exceeds the conditions outlined in this agreement,” the memo reads in bold written text under Manchin’s signature. It also includes a side note from the Senate leader under Schumer’s signature, stating that he “will try to dissuade Joe on many of these.”
A spokesperson for Schumer told Politico that Schumer “never agreed to any of the conditions Sen. Manchin laid out; he merely acknowledged where Sen. Manchin was on the subject at the time.”
While Schumer apparently knew about Manchin’s top-line spending limit proposal for over two months, the Majority leader kept it a closely held secret.
According to the memo document, Manchin proposed a red line of a $1.5 trillion social spending bill and to start debate on the budget reconciliation “no earlier than October 1, 2021.” The West Virginia Senator raised the deficit as one of his primary concerns and called for any revenues raised above the cost of a $1.5 trillion spending package should be used to reduce the deficit.
He noted in the document for a “targeted spending caps on existing programs” and “no additional handouts or transfer programs,” arguing that going over the $1.5 trillion topline would “changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality.”
In the memo, Manchin proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, the top tax rate on income to 39.6 percent, raising the capital gains tax rate to 28 percent. He also requested being the Chair of the Senate Energy Committee for his panel to have sole jurisdiction over any clean energy standard and requests “innovation not elimination” of energy sources.
The authenticity of the one-page outline was confirmed to The Floridian from a Senate Democratic aide following the Politico report.
Manchin confirmed the Politico reporting, telling reporters outside the Capitol Thursday that his Democratic colleagues have known that his topline was a solid $1.5 trillion, and revealing he told Biden the number “in the last week or so.”
“My top line has been $1.5 [trillion] because I believe in my heart that what we can do and the needs that we have right now, and what we can afford to do, without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality,” Manchin said, as a small group of protestors from Code Pink and the Democratic Socialist of America gathered to greet the centralist Democrat angrily.
The West Virginia Senator spotlighted his long political career and emphasized that he isn’t a liberal. He took a subtle jab at Progressives, saying members should learn how to compromise, or if they want to remain stubborn over their bigger bill, “they should elect more liberals.”
“I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape, or form. No one ever thought I was. I’ve been governor, I’ve been secretary of state, I’ve been state legislator, I’ve been U.S. Senator, and I have voted pretty consistently my whole life,” Manchin said.
“Take whatever we aren’t able to come to an agreement with today and take that on the campaign trail next year, and I’m sure that they’ll get many more liberal progressive Democrats with what they say they want. All they need to do is we have to elect more — I guess for them to get theirs — elect more liberals, but I’m not asking them to change. I’m willing to come from zero to 1.5 [trillion],” he added.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), a fellow moderate Senator who has refused to sign off on a $3.5 trillion price tag, issued a statement after Manchin’s presser and declared her opposition for the first time the sweeping social spending measure.
“Senator Sinema said publicly more than two months ago, before Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that she would not support a bill costing $3.5 trillion. Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator Schumer are false,” Sinema communications director John LaBombard said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Manchin further angered progressives in his party, lambasted their wish-list spending plans as “the definition of fiscal insanity.” He also highlighted the trillions Congress had to dole out since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, asking his Democratic colleagues, “At some point, all of us regardless of party must ask the simple question — how much is enough?”
Manchin’s $1.5 trillion topline number further complicated House Democrats’ planned Thursday’s scheduled $1.2 trillion infrastructure vote amid weeks of high-profile intra-party feuding. Meanwhile, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) doubled down her 96-members threat on not voting for the “infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill has passed,” noting the larger social spending package is a “vote as an ironclad assurance from the Senate,” in reference to Manchin and Sinema.