WASHINGTON -- Democrats are beginning to take up pieces of President Joe Biden’s stagnant domestic agenda. They have been working with the White House in concert to rebrand the plan as a push for cutting costs for families.
It doesn't have to be called "Build Back Better" or presented as a bill that will transform America. These frames were removed by Democratic leaders as a tacit admission that they had alienated Manchin.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, offered some suggestions in a letter to his colleagues Monday about what might be included in a revised package Democrats could pass without GOP support.
"In reconciliation, Senate Democrats introduced additional legislative proposals for lower the rising cost of health care, prescription drugs, energy, and the costs associated with raising a family," he wrote. He described it as a push against "rising costs."
Biden spoke out last week in his State of the Union address. He highlighted a number of provisions that Manchin said he supports. These include prescription drug savings through Medicare negotiations and clean energy money. It also makes it permanent for health insurance funding. Biden also called for raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to "lower our deficit", a priority of Manchin.
"Get your financial house in order. All Democrats voted against the 2017 Republican tax cut. That's the only thing. Manchin stated that they thought they were unfairly weighted. He made the comments on Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press. "If there's one thing you all agree on, fix it."
He said that there were no formal talks.
Manchin also stated his requirements last week regarding how the savings should go in a new filibusterproof bill.
He said that half of the money should go to fighting inflation and reducing deficit. You can choose to have the other half for a 10-year program. It is up to you what priority you give. It seems that the environment is what it is right now.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a moderate, stated that he is working on ways to allocate some deficit savings.
He said, "I have some very specific ideas about how we could devote some of the revenues to, for example, extending the life expectancy of Medicare." "There are $30 trillion of debt. It's not sustainable."
Schumer stated in his letter that the Senate committees would hold "new hearings and markups on Democrats’ cost-cutting propositions" in March and April. The hearings will begin next week with a Finance Committee hearing on cutting prescription drug prices. This would satisfy another Manchin request: that the policies be passed by committee and that Republicans have their say.
Democrats are more optimistic due to recent developments. Biden's legacy is in serious trouble.
"It seems like there have been some movements with Senator Manchin -- that is good. "I can tell you that our caucus has moved a reconciliation bill," Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in an interview. He added that Democrats will be ready for action once Congress has finished funding the government and sending assistance to Ukraine to defend itself against an invasion from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"There won't be any surprises about what is included. Surprises will come from what isn't included. So let's do it," Cardin said. "To me, there's nothing sacred. I want to do as much as possible, then find other ways to accomplish the rest.
Obstacles remain. Many Democrats are still not ready to accept that cherished programs, such as the $250-$300 per month child tax credit payment, paid parental leave guarantees, and enhanced Medicare benefits will not be included in the bill. These programs are supported by almost all Democrats and could be withdrawn from the package. Schumer isn't happy to share bad news, as the previous negotiation showed.
Manchin's tax increases on corporations and top earners may be challenged by Sen. Kyrsten Silena, D-Ariz. who is still opposed to rate rises.
A spokesperson for Sinema told NBC News that there are many ways to pay such ideas, and that they do not involve tax rate increases that harm small businesses or our economic competitiveness.
Manchin has rejected the $1.7 Trillion bill that was passed in the House. He believes it allows programs to expire to lower sticker prices, which he calls a gimmick. Any new bill that Manchin votes for would require permanent funding of new programs and large sums of savings to go to the deficit. This is a difficult task, especially for House progressives, who are angry at Manchin's opposition of a bill that they claim already requires major sacrifices.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said that Biden's decision to reframe the package within the State of the Union was the right one. He was adamant about getting votes to approve roughly half-a trillion dollars in climate change and clean energy funding. This funding was something he worked on for months with Manchin's input.
"My hope is that the $555 billion can be agreed upon," Markey said. Markey stated that six months of hard work has been required to reach this agreement. "We used the climate provision to be the foundation and then added any other items that could win 50 votes. That's my opinion. It's a winning formula. We can do it."
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. said Democrats should listen to Sen. Manchin's presentation and acknowledge that it would be an important achievement, even for those who believe climate provisions are vital.
He said, "If we're discussing raising taxes on very rich people and corporations in order to save the earth, why wouldn't that be a conversation?" We all need to be able to see the limits of what we can accomplish in a 50-vote Senate. Let's not focus on what we cannot do, but instead let's be positive and see what we can do. My sense is that the president is also focusing on what he can do.