Sen. Joe Manchin called on left-wing Democrats pressuring him to support the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package to "elect more liberals" if they want to see a bigger spending bill pass.
The centrist Democrat from West Virginia said on Thursday he remains firmly supportive of a $1.5 trillion top-line price tag for an infrastructure bill, far lower than the $3.5 trillion sought by liberals within his party. Some left-wing lawmakers have already threatened to oppose a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders want to put up for a vote Thursday night.
"I've never been a liberal in any way, shape, or form," Manchin said as a large group of reporters formed around him on Thursday. “I don't fault any of them who believe that they're much more progressive and much more liberal, God bless them. And all they need to do is, we have to elect more liberals.”
Due to the Senate's 50-50 split, a lost vote from Manchin puts many parts of President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda in jeopardy.
"I've been very upfront and very fair, and the bottom line is $1.5 [trillion] ... for a reconciliation bill,” Manchin said on Thursday.
Manchin suggested any components left out of a $1.5 trillion bill should become a priority for liberals seeking office during the 2022 elections. He encouraged Democrats to "take that on the campaign trail next year, and I'm sure that you'll get many more liberal, progressive Democrats with what they say they want."
The West Virginia Democrat has also utilized his centrist position to shape various controversial policies surrounding the reconciliation package, saying late Wednesday that the bill will be "dead on arrival" if Democrats remove the Hyde Amendment from the package. Under the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid and other federal programs are prohibited from covering abortion expenses. Manchin has said he is "proud" of his "pro-life" position.
At the start of the Biden administration, far-left lawmakers led by Sen. Bernie Sanders had talked up spending packages of $6 trillion, but the proposal now stands at $3.5 trillion, which Republican leaders oppose.
Manchin is joined by Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in seeking an even lower price tag.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese