Manchin breaks with party leaders over debt ceiling strategy and Biden’s economic package

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The West Virginia Democrat, who holds a pivotal Senate vote of 50-50, told CNN he disagreed with the strategy the main Democrats are pursuing in stalemate with Republicans over the raising the national debt limit. Manchin said Democrats “shouldn’t rule anything out,” including a budget process that Democratic leaders have made clear they will not use.

Speaking to reporters, Manchin also would not commit to the new timetable set by party leaders to reach a deal on expanding the social safety net by October 31. And he has resisted calls from progressives and other top Democrats to raise his $ 1.5 trillion package price, which many in his party see as too low to meet key political goals.

In a warning sign to progressives, Manchin said the package must include a ban on the use of federal funds for most abortions. “The Hyde Amendment is a red line,” he said. Manchin’s stance puts him at odds with progressives, with Progressive Congressional Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal saying on Sunday that she would not support a package that included the Hyde Amendment.

Republicans demanded Democrats use the budget reconciliation process to raise the debt limit, but Democratic leaders have described him as a non-starter. The process opens the Senate to a series of difficult and time-consuming marathon votes known as vote-a-ramas.

“We just can’t let the debt ceiling expire. We just can’t,” Manchin said, adding Democrats shouldn’t be worried about politically sensitive votes.

“We can prevent the fault, we can really prevent it. And there’s a way to do it, and there’s a few other tools that we have that we can use. It takes a little bit of time, a little bit of – – it’s gonna be a little bit of pain, long votes-a-ramas, this and that – do whatever you have to do. But we can’t – and I want people to know that – we won’t let this country be lacking. “

When asked if leaders should use the reconciliation process, Manchin said, “We will do what we have to do, absolutely.”

For now, Democrats and Republicans remain at a deadlock on how to raise or suspend the debt limit and time is running out until potential economic disaster with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warning lawmakers that the federal government will likely run out of cash by October 18. But that deadline is uncertain, which means Congress likely can’t afford to wait until then to act.

Republicans insist Democrats, who control the White House and both houses of Congress, should act alone to resolve the issue, while Democrats argue it is a shared bipartisan responsibility, in particular given the billions of debt accumulated during the Trump administration.

Biden’s economic package

A small group of House progressives met with Biden on Monday for a virtual check on the progress of negotiations around the Build Back Better plan, with lawmakers expressing their desire to adopt “as strong a plan as possible” by the government. two chambers of Congress, according to a source close to the appeal. Another source told CNN that Democrats agreed they need to reach consensus on a deal and that “something is better than nothing.”

But Manchin’s support will be essential for Democrats to push forward Biden’s broad economic package to extend the social safety net. He did not support the key October 31 deadline that the party leadership is now pushing for the package. When asked on Monday if it was possible to do it by then, Manchin said: “I really don’t know about the timing – there is no rush on the timing. and let’s do it right. “

The West Virginia Democrat has also failed to show a willingness to budge from what he has defined as his desired $ 1.5 trillion in revenue for the package, which is far less than what he wants. many Democrats. Progressives want to see the package at $ 3.5 trillion, while Democratic leaders now hope the party can settle on a figure north of $ 2000 billion.

Asked about Jayapal’s comments on Sunday that the $ 1.5 trillion figure was “too small,” Manchin did not say if he would be prepared to go higher. “You know what? Let’s make these decisions. We have to work together, and basically they understand where I am and I’ve been very clear about it for many days, many weeks and even months,” he said. he declares.

Pressed by CNN to find out if this is the maximum he will go, Manchin said, “I don’t know why something is surprising to anyone, you know? What we should do is embrace the infrastructure bill, that’s what we really should be doing. “a reference to a separate $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan bill that has yet to pass the House as progressives demand first an agreement on the vast bill on social spending.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.


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