Posts tagged with "Senator Joe Manchin"

With climate deal in sight, Democratic hopes hinge on Sinema

August 5, 2022

Now that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is on board, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has emerged as the final holdout on her party’s domestic agenda. So far, she’s staying characteristically silent, reports The New York Times.

Sinema—an inscrutable lawmaker who has shown a willingness to buck her party, according to the Times—has replaced Manchin as the most prominent and speculated-upon holdout on his party’s major climate, energy and tax package.

On Tuesday, August 2, he approached her on the Senate floor with a hushed entreaty. The results are still unknown.  “She’ll make a decision based on the facts,” Manchin told reporters later, calling it “a good talk.”

While Senator Manchin has embraced the public scrutiny and attention that comes with being a swing vote in the evenly divided Senate, Senator Sinema has remained a tight-lipped enigma. Passage of the Democrats’ major domestic policy initiative, negotiated by Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, now hinges on whether she is willing to support it.

So far, Senator Sinema won’t say—putting her colleagues in a perilous position as they rush to move the package forward as early as this week and toil to unite all 50 members of their caucus behind it. Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose the plan, which includes hundreds of billions of dollars in energy and climate proposals, tax increases, extended health care subsidies and a plan aimed at lowering prescription drug prices—meaning Democrats cannot spare a single vote if all Republicans are present.

Party leaders also will have to maneuver the bill through a series of rapid-fire amendments that could pass if any Democrat joins Republicans in support. With Manchin enthusiastically embarking on a media tour to celebrate the measure, fears of failure were now being fueled by Sinema’s characteristic silence.

A spokesperson for Sinema has said that the senator continues to review the legislation and wait for guidance from top Senate rules officials, who are analyzing whether it meets the strict rules that apply under the budget reconciliation process. Democrats are using the reconciliation process to shield the legislation from a filibuster and speed it through Congress.

Top Democrats on Wednesday were quietly weighing what potential changes to the bill, particularly to its tax provisions, might be needed to win Sinema’s support, as the Arizona senator was preparing her own wish list.

While she voted for the initial $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that allowed Democrats to begin work on the legislation, Sinema has not offered explicit support for many pieces of the current package, most notably much of the tax increases included to pay for it.

Doubt about Sinema’s support has centered on her past opposition to a proposal aimed at limiting the carried interest preferential tax treatment for income earned by venture capitalists and private equity firms. A similar proposal was among the tax changes that Manchin and Schumer included in their deal.

Manchin and other Democrats have said the provision would ensure fairness in the nation’s tax code. But Sinema, who resisted many of the tax rate increases her colleagues had pushed for, has privately signaled she wants the carried interest measure removed.

She also is pushing to add funds for drought resiliency, given that her state has struggled with devastating water shortages, according to officials briefed on the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive negotiations.

Politico first reported the request from Sinema, whose state is currently in its 27th consecutive year of drought, according to the state’s climate office.

Sinema, like most of her colleagues, was blindsided by news of the deal between Manchin and Schumer and its details. Manchin has said that he intentionally did not confide in or consult other Democrats during final negotiations to salvage the climate and tax proposals because, he told reporters on Monday, “I wasn’t ever sure that we would get to a finale, to get a completed bill.”

It was unclear whether Democrats would be willing to strike the tax break for wealthy executives altogether to win over Sinema. Estimates suggest it would raise about $14 billion, a small portion of the $740 billion plan.

Party leaders expressed guarded optimism that they could pass the package with its key elements intact. “I’m very hopeful we’re all going to be united and pass this bill,” said Schumer, who said he and his staff were in touch with Ms. Sinema about the measure.

Research contact: @nytimes

Editor’s note: According to The New York Times, ” Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, announced on Thursday evening that she would support moving forward with her party’s climate, tax and health care package, clearing the way for a major piece of President Biden’s domestic agenda to move through the Senate in the coming days.”

Biden plans forceful push for voting rights

December 17, 2021

The White House wants to mark the new year with a forceful push for voting rights—portraying the protection of the ballot as a battle for democracy itself. But despite a renewed emphasis from an increasingly impatient and frustrated base, prospects for legislative success still look grim, reports Politico.

West Wing aides believe that fresh federal efforts to defend the ballot and install safeguards ahead of the midterm elections are likely to be dashed by some Democrats’ resistance to changing the Senate filibuster—a reluctance that has been spearheaded for months by Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

The White House has been considering connecting the voting rights drive with the upcoming first anniversary of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, making the case that the most sacred tenant of America’s democracy remains under siege one year after the insurrection fueled by the election fraud lies told by former President Donald Trump.

To strongly make that case, the president and his team had been hoping to clear the legislative deck by the January 6 anniversary. But the president’s social spending bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, appears stalled for the foreseeable future in the Senate, with Manchin’s refusal to commit to the $1.75 trillion legislation seemingly certain to push the measure into early 2022.

According to Politico, Biden signaled on Wednesday, December 14, that he’d be fine with prioritizing election reform for the time being, saying: “If we can get the congressional voting rights done, we should do it. … There’s nothing domestically more important than voting rights.” But, previously, White House aides had consistently signaled that they wanted the social spending bill first and voting rights second.

That sequencing has irked some of the president’s most fervent supporters, who fear he may get neither.

“The time is now. The urgency could not be more palpable than it is now,” said the  Reverand Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and a Biden confidant, who, like others, argued that voting rights should have been the Administration’s top priority in the wake of the moves by nearly 20 Republican-led legislatures to tighten state election laws.

“An inaction at this point would lead to an inaction of Black voters. People are saying, ‘If they don’t do this, I’m not voting,’” the civil rights leader said. “People are saying they feel betrayed.”

Echoing the sentiment of a growing number of Democrats who feel that Biden has simply not placed the defense of voting rights and elections at the center of his presidency, Sharpton said activists are now targeting Martin Luther King Jr. Day  on January 18 as an unofficial deadline for at least showing some real progress on voting rights. He and other activists plan to ramp up their criticisms of Democrats—with potential threats to refrain from campaigning ahead of the midterms—if action is not taken.

“I don’t want to become too dramatic,” said Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), “but voting rights may be the only thing we have to at least halt the trek away from democracy.”

While the full scale of what the White House is planning remains unclear, Biden is expected to deliver a speech connecting the day to the defense of the ballot, aides said.

But aides also recognize that a full-court press on voting rights—even if good politics—would be doomed to fail without a change to the filibuster. And they are skeptical that they can bring reluctant Democrats on board for such changes.

While Manchin has said he is open to reforming the chamber’s rules in a bipartisan manner, he does not support nuking the legislative filibuster.

Other Democrats are losing patience, however. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) delivered a passionate speech from the Senate floor this week pushing Democrats to act on voting rights—noting that the Senate just scrapped a 60-vote threshold to pass a debt ceiling hike. Represenhtative Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), who has been in touch with Warnock, said he believes Democrats are “in a good place with the voting rights bill,” though it’s “not the timeline that I would want.”

“I don’t want it to be constrained by trying to do it before the end of the year. I don’t know that you have to do it before the end of the year,” Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House and a close Biden ally, said in an interview. “I just want us to get a bill done that will help preserve this democracy because if we don’t, I think we’ve lost this democracy.”

Research contact: @politico

Biden urges fractious Dems to unite around $1.75T megabill

October 29, 2021

President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to propel their party toward a House vote as soon as Thursday, October 28, on a $550 billion Senate-passed infrastructure bill, even as progressives remain undecided about taking what one called “a leap of faith in the president,” reports Politico.

Soon after the White House outlined a framework for a $1.75 trillion deal on social spending, Biden made a high-stakes appearance on Capitol Hill to sell Pelosi’s caucus on it. While some liberal priorities were included in the package of climate, healthcare, and other social policy investments, others were left on the cutting-room floor—and, Politico said, House progressives remain noncommittal about whether to vote yes on infrastructure given their uncertainty about the framework’s Senate future.

The most expensive items in Biden’s proposal are clean energy and climate investments, at $555 billion; two years of free pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds at $400 billion; and $200 billion on tax credits for one year of the Child Tax Credit. The biggest items left out are paid family leave and prescription drug reform. On the latter, a senior administration official made clear there are “not yet enough votes” for it.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus held its own meeting after Biden left, as its chair Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) held off on where her group stood after the president’s pitch for its votes. Another of her members, Representative Cori Bush (D-Missouri), said simply “no” when asked if she would vote for the infrastructure bill after the president’s push.

“We have had a position of needing to see the legislative text and voting on both bills,” Jayapal said, referring to the infrastructure bill and the separate, still-unwritten social spending bill. “And we’ll see where people are. But I think a lot of people are still in that place.”

According to Politico, Jayapal spoke after Biden made a direct plea for his party’s support. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week,” Biden told Democrats, according to a source in the room.

Indeed, top Democrats, including Pelosi, had hoped that the president’s trip to Rome for the climate summit—which he departed for later in the day on Thursday—would be a triumphant one after they clinched an agreement on the roughly $1.75 trillion social spending bill with moderate Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).

Sinema indicated she’s warm on the emerging deal, saying in a statement that “I look forward to getting this done.”

“We’re very excited about it. We’re going to send him off to his meetings with strength,” Pelosi said of Biden’s visit as she entered the Capitol. Asked whether progressives were on board, she said, “You’ll have to ask them.”

Research contact: @politico

Senate introduces text of bipartisan infrastructure package

August 4, 2021

The U.S. Senate introduced the long-awaited text of its bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sunday, August 1—aiming to pass the massive measure this week, NBC News reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said he would push forward with amendments to the legislation, which senators were finalizing through the weekend.

“Given how bipartisan the bill is, and how much work has already been put in to get the details right, I believe the Senate can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The measure—H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—includes roughly $555 billion in new spending to build roads, public transit and other priorities of President Joe Biden, which would inject a windfall of money into a series of transportation projects that have long enjoyed support from both parties.

The bill, which is 2,702 pages, includes $110 billion for roads, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. It has measures aimed at reforming Amtrak, “revolutionizing” a transportation grant program and enhancing the electrical grid. Other provisions target drinking water infrastructure, broadband affordability and reducing ferry emissions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked on the bill said that they had overcome their differences to craft legislation that would modernize the country’s outdated infrastructure.

“So many people have given up on the Senate,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) “They have given up on Congress. They have given up on our ability to be able to do the big things. This is big. This is a big deal.”

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) added that the group had followed a commitment to focus on “core” infrastructure—instead of a far more expansive set of proposals initially advanced by the White House—and to not raise taxes.

“We kept to those two principles,” he said.

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to defeat a filibuster and begin debate on the agreement, a sign that it has broad support in the chamber. Among the 17 Republican supporters in that vote was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

According to NBC News, Schumer said that once the bill was passed, he would move to a budget blueprint for an even more massive $3.5 trillion measure to fund Democratic priorities on climate, health care and the economy as senators work to finish up legislative work before their summer break begins next week.

The Senate’s infrastructure legislation faces trouble in the House amid pushback from Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), and progressives who say it doesn’t do enough to invest in public transportation, water and tackle climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has insisted that the larger measure must be passed before the House, which already has left for its recess, will even consider the bipartisan infrastructure deal. The larger bill will give Democrats skeptical of the Senate agreement a chance to address their priorities.

Biden voiced his support for the infrastructure measure Sunday, tweeting that the deal “is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

‘Not going to happen’: Progressives slam McConnell effort to sabotage reconciliation bill

June 30, 2021

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is actively working to undermine the Democratic majority’s emerging infrastructure strategy by demanding the separation of the White House-backed bipartisan deal from a broader reconciliation package—a non-starter for progressives who say they will not support the former without simultaneous passage of the latter, Raw Story reports.

“It’s not going to happen,” Representative Ro Khanna (D-California) told NBC News on June 28, referring to McConnell’s request. “There is no way a bipartisan deal passes the House without a vote the same day on a Senate-passed reconciliation that has bold climate provisions.”

In a statement on Monday, McConnell called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Caliornia) to “walk back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass” a sweeping reconciliation package; which the newly re-elected Kentucky Republican referred to as “unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism.”

According to Raw Story, along with other members of his caucus, McConnell—despite being well aware of the Democrats’ two-track approach—voiced outrage last week after President Joe Biden said he would refuse to sign a bipartisan infrastructure bill that is not accompanied by separate legislation that addresses other Democratic priorities, from investments in green energy to child care to paid family leave. The Democratic package would pass through reconciliation, an arcane budget process that is exempt from the 60-vote legislative filibuster that McConnell has frequently wielded to stymie the majority party’s agenda.

Biden soon softened his position amid Republican backlash, saying in a statement Saturday that he intends to “pursue the passage” of the $579 billion bipartisan measure “with vigor” and will sign it if it reaches his desk.

But Biden’s shift was not enough for McConnell, who said the president’s vow will amount to a “hollow gesture” unless Schumer and Pelosi take the same position.

On Thursday, Pelosi said the House won’t hold a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate also passes the broader reconciliation package—a stance that won applause from progressive lawmakers, who are now urging the Democratic leadership to hold firm in the face of what they view as McConnell’s bad-faith sabotage effort.

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pointed to McConnell’s remark last month that “100%” of his focus is on “stopping this new administration.”

“The last person who should have a say on our agenda is Senate MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell,” Jayapal tweeted. “We’re going to go big and bold on our reconciliation package because that’s what people voted us in to do.”

Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee—which is headed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)—are expected to hold a call this week to discuss the size and scope of the nascent reconciliation bill.

Sanders is reportedly pushing for a roughly $6 trillion package that includes Medicare expansion, significant spending on climate action, and other investments. The youth-led Sunrise Movement is demanding that Democrats to go even further by embracing a $10 trillion in climate and infrastructure spending over the next decade.

But, in order to pass, any reconciliation bill must win the vote of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WestVirginia), who indicated over the weekend that he would not be willing to support a package larger than $2 trillion, according to Raw Story.

In a tweet on Monday, Sanders addressed those suggesting his reconciliation offer is too pricey.

“For those who say the budget framework I proposed costs ‘too much,’ what would you cut?” the Vermont senator asked. “Combating climate change? Childcare? Universal Pre-K? Paid family and medical leave? Dental, hearing, and vision [for Medicare recipients]? Housing? Long-term home healthcare? Child Tax Credit? Waiting…”

Research contact: @RawStoryRaw S

Democrat calls Manchin a ‘new Mitch McConnell,’ who is working to thwart Biden’s agenda

June 8, 2021

On July 7, New York Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman compared fellow Democrat Senator Joe  of West Virginia to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—and said that Manchin is attempting to obstruct President Joe Biden’s agenda, based on his recent decisions to vote against a sweeping voting rights bill and to retain the filibuster, CNN reported.

“Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell during Obama’s presidency said he would do everything in his power to stop (then-President Barack Obama),” Bowman told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” “He’s also repeated that now during the Biden presidency by saying he would do everything in his power to stop President Biden, and now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people, the work that the people sent us here to do.”

Bowman continued, “Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship. He is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency.”

Bowman’s scathing criticism of his fellow Democrat is an outward s—has become a roadblock for some of Biden’s agenda.

On Sunday, Manchin defended his decision to vote against a sweeping voting rights bill called the For the People Act, writing in an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that “partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.”

What’s more, CNN notes, for months, Manchin has remained a key holdup to the voting rights bill and he is the only Democratic senator not listed as a co-sponsor on the legislation.

He also asserted that “the fundamental right to vote has, itself, become overtly politicized,” and—taking aim at members of his party—said some Democrats have “attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”

In the past, Manchin has argued that Democrats who want to abolish the filibuster should be careful what they wish for, noting then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move in 2013 to remove the 60-vote filibuster standard for most presidential nominees was later cited by Republicans to lift the rule for Supreme Court justices, which eventually led to a conservative majority on the high court.

Research contact: @CNN

President Biden comes out in favor of changing Senate filibuster rules

March 18, 2021

President Biden said this week that he supports bringing back a requirement that senators must be present and talking on the floor to block bills, as Democrats explore ways to smooth the path for their policy agenda by revising the legislative filibuster rule, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The comments—made on Tuesday, March 16— marked a shift for Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years and previously had said he would prefer to preserve the filibuster rather than get rid of it, as some Democrats have advocated.

“I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” President Biden said in an ABC News interview. You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.”

Asked if that meant he is supporting bringing back the talking filibuster, an idea backed by a growing number of Democratic senators, Biden responded: “I am. That’s what it was supposed to be.”

The president’s remarks came the same day on which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) threatened to grind the Senate to a halt if Democrats make any changes to the filibuster, the Journal reports.

“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books,” McConnell said in a speech Tuesday. “The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pileup. Nothing moving.”

Democrats are at least two votes shy of the 51 needed to kill off the legislative filibuster—a step that would clear the way for them to pass sweeping legislation on voting rights, immigration, gun regulations and other measures unlikely to attract bipartisan support.

As an alternative, Senate Democrats are exploring a return to traditional talking filibusters, like the one famously depicted by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The idea was floated recently by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, who, like President Biden, has said he is adverse to abolishing the filibuster entirely but open to revisions.

Today, senators can filibuster a bill without talking at all. They don’t even have to show up in the chamber. Now momentum is building to tweak the rules, at least, to make filibustering harder.

Senators don’t have to stand for even one minute to shut down the Senate,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “All they have to do is threaten it, phone it in, catch a plane, go home from Washington, and come back Monday to see how their filibuster’s doing. ‘Mr. Smith phones it in.’ That wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would it?”

Democrats blame a 1975 rule change that allowed absent senators to count against the 60 votes needed to end debate on a bill and proceed to final passage. They say it made filibusters less costly to the minority.

“What’s the pain?” asked Manchin on Fox News last week.

Manchin’s support for reinstating the talking filibuster isn’t new. In 2011, he was one of 46 Democrats who voted in favor of a proposal by Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Oregon) that would have required senators to take the floor and make remarks to block legislation. No Republicans voted for it, and the measure failed.

Had it passed, it would have allowed the Senate to enter a period of extended debate if a simple majority of senators voted to end debate on a bill. Senators who wanted to block legislation would have had to ensure that at least one of them was on the floor presenting arguments or the majority could move on to final passage with 51 votes.

Merkley said he isn’t wedded to his 2011 approach. “There are many nuances of different ways that it could be done,” he said. “And I’m not ready to say any one way.”

Research contact: @WSJ