Manchin Refuses to Endorse Safety Net Bill, Dampening Hopes of a Quick Vote

The Democratic senator, a crucial swing vote, demanded more time to evaluate the economic and fiscal ramifications of the $1.85 trillion plan, frustrating plans for a House vote this week.

“While I have worked hard to find a path to compromise, it is obvious compromise is not good enough for some in Congress,” Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said on Monday.
Credit...Tom Brenner for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia all but dashed hopes for quick votes this week on President Biden’s domestic agenda, saying on Monday that he would not endorse a $1.85 trillion social policy and climate package without ample time to consider its economic and fiscal ramifications.

During an appearance at the Capitol, Mr. Manchin, a crucial Democratic swing vote, condemned liberals in the House who have refused to vote for a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan without a final deal on the domestic policy plan, saying their tactics would not pressure him into swallowing his grave reservations about the safety net measure.

His comments poured cold water on plans by House Democratic leaders to quickly complete talks on the safety net bill and bring both measures to a vote this week, leaving the fate of Mr. Biden’s top two priorities up in the air again. They also undercut the president’s assertion that an outline of the social policy and climate plan that he presented last week had the backing of all 50 Democratic and independent senators.

“While I have worked hard to find a path to compromise, it is obvious compromise is not good enough for some in Congress,” Mr. Manchin said, reading from prepared remarks. “It’s all or nothing, and their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything. Enough is enough.”

He reiterated a demand to see details and a fiscal accounting of that bill’s impact, criticizing elements of an emerging compromise outlined by Mr. Biden last week, which has been negotiated largely to win Mr. Manchin’s vote.

“Holding that bill hostage is not going to work to get my support of what you want,” the senator said of the infrastructure legislation. Of the social policy package, he added: “I’m open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward, but I’m equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country.”

In a statement, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that the legislation being negotiated in the House met Mr. Manchin’s demands that the plan address inflation, create jobs and be fiscally responsible.

“The plan the House is finalizing meets those tests: It is fully paid for, will reduce the deficit and brings down costs for health care, child care, elder care and housing,” she said, adding “as a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Senator Manchin’s support.”

Democrats need the support of all 50 of their senators to win approval of the legislation, and all but a few of their members in the House. They are pushing the social safety net bill through Congress over unanimous Republican opposition using a special budget process known as reconciliation that shields such legislation from a filibuster.

Mr. Manchin’s remarks came as progressive Democrats had dropped their demand that the Senate pass the reconciliation bill before they would agree to vote for the infrastructure plan. They made it more likely that those liberals would insist on a firm commitment from Mr. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another key moderate, before moving forward.

Top Democrats spent the weekend feverishly working to resolve the final sticking points, including a last-ditch bid to negotiate a plan that could help address the high costs of prescription drugs.