Manchin Says Price Tag on Biden’s Plan Is ‘Uncomfortable’
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s looming challenges in Congress to pass his sweeping $1.8 trillion plan to expand educational opportunities and child care for families surfaced quickly on Wednesday, as a crucial moderate Democratic senator expressed reservations about the cost.
“It’s a lot of money, a lot of money,” said Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose support would be essential on a party-line vote in the chamber. “That makes you very uncomfortable.”
Biden, who will discuss his American Families Plan in his first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, is going to have to keep moderates like Manchin on board in a Senate split 50-50 between the two parties even as many Democrats are pushing him to go even bigger.
Progressives want the plan to include new health care benefits, while Democrats from high-income, high-tax states like New York are threatening to withhold support unless the legislation ends a cap on the state and local tax deductions imposed in 2017.
Though Manchin declined to give a bottom-line opinion on Biden’s proposal, saying he hadn’t yet read it, he voiced skepticism about some provisions. While it includes federal funding for universal pre-kindergarten education, Manchin pointedly noted that his state of West Virginia had achieved that on its own.
“States need to pull their own weight,” Manchin said. “We’re relying on Uncle Sam to do everything it seems.”
Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat who, like Manchin, represents a heavily Republican state, said “the goals are good” in Biden’s plan but that he wanted to see whether the full amount is necessary given the massive pandemic-relief measures Congress has already passed.
“We have to look at how this interfaces with the previous packages,” Tester told reporters. “And if there’s overlap if that overlap’s been accounted for.”
Other Democrats are clamoring for more. Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, dismissed concerns about the level of spending.
“The American people support us,” she said on CNN. “The president is going to be on great footing if he continues to be bold and if he continues to do the things that put food on the table, money in people’s pockets, and address their health care.”
Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota suggested the president wasn’t likely to find support from the GOP.
“They’re going bold, going big, going large and are looking for a massive expansion of government,” Thune said. “I don’t think that was their mandate.”
Given the broad Republican opposition, Senate Democrats could try to use a procedure known as reconciliation to pass Biden’s plan without GOP votes. That would make support from Manchin and other Democratic moderates such as Tester and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema all the more important for the White House.
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