Senator Joe Manchin Says Deal on Social Safety Net Bill Could be Reached This Week

Earlier this week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin expressed his most optimistic appraisal yet of passing President Joe Biden’s signature social safety net bill. The moderate Democrat said that in his view, the bill could be passed as early as this week. Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, another moderate member of the party, have long been holdouts on the extensive piece of legislation.

While Manchin remains optimistic that a deal can be reached this week, he nonetheless concedes that he still has reservations on the bill. Namely, Manchin remains concerned over new paid leave options in the bill and how it expands Medicare. Additionally, Manchin wants the bill to stay at a maximum of $1.5 trillion, far lower than the over $3 trillion favored by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Manchin’s statement comes following news that the House of Representatives will be voting on a separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill this Wednesday. While progressives have vowed to fight the bill until a deal on the larger social safety net program has been made, it has widespread bipartisan support.

Democratic leaders in both houses have been working tirelessly to gain Manchin’s support. According to sources close to the senator, party leaders are principally trying to convince Manchin to support new Medicare policies introduced in the bill. In an interview with CNN, Manchin expressed concern about the current solvency of Medicare. The senator defends his position on the bill by arguing that Congress needs to fix the current Medicare system before expanding it. Manchin points out that countless people throughout the United States and his home state of West Virginia depend on Medicare. Manchin additionally feels that it would not be a fiscally responsible decision to expand the program. In comparing his approach to government to that of his progressive colleagues, Manchin said that while he believes that government is an excellent partner for citizens, it should not be their provider.

Democratic negotiators say that Manchin has also expressed concern over parts of the bill aimed at addressing climate change. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Senator Gary Peters of Michigan say that while Manchin opposes climate change provisions, he remains open to including funds for it in the bill. Speaking with reporters, Peters adds that while Manchin opposes the measure, he has shown some interest in including around $300 billion in funds for it. These funds would mostly go to government procurement of clean energy vehicles and building supplies, such as electric cars.

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