Manchin’s offer to the Democrats: Get a health care deal or try again later

Manchin’s offer to the Democrats: Get a health care deal or try again later

“If you have a political deadline, and it has to be done in July, the only thing you know you can do is basically… cut your drug prices, let Medicare negotiate, which saves about $ 280 billion. over 10 years. Take 40 billion and extend the Affordable Care Act, the discounts people were getting, “Manchin said.

Democrats are faltering after Manchin’s communication to Schumer indicated climate change and tax provisions are impractical for any party bill considered this summer. The fury grows within the party, with sen. Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) wondering if Manchin he should continue to chair the Senate Energy Committee.

And since Manchin paused before agreeing to vote for something bigger in September pending inflation numbers due next month, Democrats would sink into uncertainty if they didn’t accept the smallest deal on the table.

Asked about Schumer’s response when he expressed his views on Thursday, Manchin replied, “He says, ‘Are you telling me you’re not going to do the other one right now?’ I said, ‘Chuck, that’s wrong. It’s not safe to do the other one right now.’ “

Thursday night’s meeting between Schumer and Manchin sparked weeks of discussions on a broader deficit reduction package and potentially leaves only a slim health-care-focused bill as an option for Democrats hoping to pass legislation. much wider than President Joe Biden’s desk. Healthcare awards are generally set in the summer, so if Democrats waited until September they would risk infuriating voters before the midterm, without Manchin’s ironclad assurance that he would accept a broader proposal.

The health deal offered by Manchin would reduce premiums for two years; Democrats were looking for a permanent solution due to Manchin’s past insistence that new programs not be made temporary and all paid for.

Manchin himself proposed for the first time this year to keep a so-called reconciliation bill, which can avoid a GOP obstruction, centered on deficit reduction, climate spending, tax increases on the rich and on companies, as well as on prescription drug reform.

But the influential centrist tightened intensely this week on the contours of that package as inflation continued to haunt the economy, telling reporters Wednesday that it wasn’t clear what the Democrats could get beyond prescription drugs.

“All our efforts should be: how can we reduce gas prices, high energy prices, high food prices, all of these things – it’s everyday life. And everyone is talking about everything but things, “Manchin said in an interview earlier this week.” Unless you can get your financial house in order, you won’t have inflation under control. “

Manchin’s rejection of Schumer’s offers for broader legislation sparked deep frustration on the part of progressives, particularly those who saw democratic control of Congress and the White House as a long-sought opportunity to curb carbon emissions. . It could be several years before Democrats find themselves in control of both houses of Congress and the White House and the ability to unilaterally push through pieces of their long-term agenda.

In a rare statement of criticism to a colleague, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) Called Manchin’s position “irritating” and said that “the world is literally burning up as he joins every single Republican to stop strong action” on climate change.

“It is important that every young person, every activist, the majority of this country calling for climate action understands very clearly that these are not the Democrats,” the Rep said. Jared Huffman (D-California) in an interview. “This is a man named Joe Manchin. When it comes to the most important existential issue of our time, this man is a wrecking ball. “

The Democrats were willing to make severe concessions to Manchin to try and get something broader done this summer. Schumer has offered to send half of the bill’s new tax revenue to reduce the deficit, cut subsidies for electric vehicles, not pay direct payments to companies that produce clean energy for consumers, and even support permit reform for consumers. further drilling, according to the Democrat briefed on the talks.

Manchin had sought to reduce an originally set energy package from over $ 500 billion to $ 300 billion or less. Privately, he opposed sending money to the electric vehicle industry and direct payment program.

Despite his general support for the corporate tax hike, Manchin told the Kercheval show that he is unwilling to install a minimum 15% corporate tax rate at the moment due to concerns that “other countries are not following. the example … we took it off the table. ” On Friday he said energy policy conversations with Schumer were “positive”.

Schumer also offered an energy deal in Manchin that did not include tax increases the centrist is concerned about, such as corporate taxes, the Democrat briefed on the negotiations said Friday. Manchin refused that too.

Democrats are trying to raise taxes on very high-income incomes, force some owners of so-called “pass-through” companies to contribute more to Medicare taxes, and crack down on low-tax companies.

This February, Manchin exposed what he might be able to support: investing in energy, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, reducing deficits and tax reform. You have consistently stated that you support the reversal of the 2017 GOP tax cuts.

Democrats may decide to accept Manchin’s small offer, given the hikes in insurance premiums that will occur this fall with no action on health care and the party’s long-sought goal of lowering drug prices. Furthermore, it would avoid a political disaster for the party trying to maintain its tenuous hold on the equally divided Senate.

But this would be only a fraction of what the Democrats once set out to do.

Last year they unveiled a trillion-dollar package that reshaped the country’s education, tax, climate and housing policies. And just a year ago Manchin signed a document with Schumer indicating potential backing for a $ 1.5 trillion bill.

The House eventually passed the smaller Build Back Back Better bill. But Manchin turned him down in December. In March he presented the draft of a potential agreement: “The production of revenue [measures] it would be taxes and drugs. The expenditure will be for the climate “.

When he concluded his interview with Kercheval, Manchin insisted that he would not withdraw from talks with Schumer. In vintage Manchin style, he said “I don’t stop … I’m where I’ve been”.

Josh Siegel contributed to this report.

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