Joe Manchin says he’s ‘agreed’ on a Democratic-only reconciliation bill, but not how big it will be

Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Oliver Contreras/The New York Times via AP, Pool
  • Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday that a reconciliation bill for family-focused spending “can be done.”
  • But he said Democrats need to finalize the bill’s size before winning his support.
  • Manchin, a key moderate, is critical to passing a reconciliation bill that would be key to Biden’s agenda.
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Sen. Joe Manchin says he believes a Democratic-only reconciliation bill “can be done,” but he hasn’t agreed on how big it will be.

In a Tuesday interview on MSNBC, the moderate senator from West Virginia said “there’s a need” to pass funding for both traditional infrastructure and family-focused support. President Joe Biden threw his support behind a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package on Thursday and now aims to pass a reconciliation bill separately, which may resemble Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan proposal.

With Senate Republicans likely to almost completely oppose the latter proposal, Democrats are expected to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a bill with a simple 50-vote majority. Such a process is likely necessary, but Democrats still need to finalize the legislation before winning party-wide support, Manchin said.

“I’ve agreed that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount,” he said. “I haven’t seen everything that everybody is wanting to put into the bill.”

The self-described “pretty much centrist” senator has already played a major role in Biden-era legislative debates. With Democrats holding 50 seats in the Senate, reconciliation requires every member of the party to hold the line for Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie. Winning Manchin’s support is critical for Biden to pass his family-focused infrastructure proposal.

That doesn’t mean Senate Democrats are on the same page on a bill’s price tag. Manchin said Sunday that he’d support a $2 trillion, Democrat-only infrastructure measure, adding he has no desire to “add more debt” to the government’s balance sheet.

On the other side of the party, Sen. Bernie Sanders drafted a $6 trillion reconciliation package earlier in June that roughly mirrors the president’s initial proposals. That spending proposal includes funding for green energy projects, affordable housing, and an expansion of Medicare. Senate Democrats are considering passing that through reconciliation, Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported on June 17. Yet Manchin’s comments indicate such a large package may not pass.

The bipartisan infrastructure proposal stood at the center of a weekend scramble between the Biden administration and Congressional Republicans. The president suggested on Thursday he wouldn’t support the measure unless it was bundled with a reconciliation bill for his families plan, sparking a Republican outcry that endangered the deal.

Biden reversed his stance over the weekend, saying he would sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill regardless. Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that a bipartisan infrastructure plan won’t get a House vote unless the Senate approves a Democratic-only spending package.