By ALAN FRAM – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Key Senator Joe Manchin on Wednesday unveiled the broad outlines of a reconfigured social and environmental package that will direct half its resources to cutting federal deficits, a day after President Joe Biden proposed his own more ambitious, but stalled plan to realign.
Manchin, DW.Va., whose opposition doomed Biden’s 10-year, roughly $2 trillion measure in December, did not provide numbers or details. But as he briefly outlined his ideas to reporters, he offered a faint glimmer of hope that Democrats could revive some version of Biden’s marquee legislative priority this election year.
Nonetheless, Manchin, by saying he wanted half the package for deficit reduction and inflation control, proposed a major legislative overhaul that would leave less room for democratic priorities and leave their prospects uncertain. The entire effort has drawn unanimous Republican opposition and was brushed aside in the evenly divided Senate after Manchin said before Christmas he opposed a version of the bill that the House had passed.
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“If you want to talk, don’t think you should get your finances in order,” Manchin said.
Democrats had argued that the bill approved by the House of Representatives was mostly paid and said it would help families deal with inflation by giving them more federal aid.
Manchin said there have been “no formal discussions” about reviving the effort and he has not taken his ideas to the White House. He’s been saying for months that the House-approved bill would stoke inflation, but he didn’t say on Wednesday what he meant was using the legislation to curb price hikes that have impacted the economy as a whole.
Manchin said he wants to boost revenue by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations and curbing the prices of the prescription drugs Medicare buys for its beneficiaries. The savings not used for deficit reduction could be used for a priority such as using tax credits and other incentives to reduce pollutants that contribute to global warming.
All of this was included in the Biden-backed bill that Manchin derailed in December. But the marginalized legislation was much broader and included initiatives such as improved child tax credits, health care subsidies and free preschools.
In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Biden proposed a rebranded version of this package, although he didn’t use numbers. He said the measure would help families cope with rising expenses and stressed that it should contain drug prices, fight climate change and help with childcare costs.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a progressive who has repeatedly fallen out with Manchin over social and environmental bills, did not rule out accepting a smaller package if it achieved gains like cutting costs for prescription drugs and childcare. But he seemed reluctant to bow to Manchin’s suggestions.
“Mr. Manchin, I heard last, does not head the United States Senate. Our job is to bring about the legislation that the American people want. Mr. Manchin can vote no,” Sanders said.
“There’s a lot of discussion going on among senators,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said when asked if Biden’s words had sparked new movements in the push.
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