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Joe Manchin and Kyrsten express concern over Democratic Party’s $3.5 trillion economic-restructuring agenda

Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema may argue for significant cuts to the Democratic Party’s $3.5 trillion economic-restructuring agenda. Senate Democrats want at least $3.5 trillion in new spending to fix the economy.

 

According to reports on Wednesday, Democrats advanced a $3.5 trillion spending plan, laying the groundwork for a strong anti-poverty effort aimed at securing a significant component of Vice President Joe Biden’s agenda in the coming months.

However, new divisions emerged within their caucus over the bill’s breadth and scope. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a key swing vote, issued a statement three hours after the voting ended, expressing “severe concerns.”

“To combat the pandemic, Congress has infused more than $5 trillion in stimulus into the American economy in the last year – more than at any time since World War II.

Adding trillions of dollars to the almost $29 trillion national debt without regard for the consequences for our children and grandkids is one of those decisions that Washington has made much too easily.

Given the current health of the economy, continuing to spend at levels more appropriate to a Great Depression or Great Recession — rather than an economy on the verge of overheating — is just reckless “In a statement, he added.

The West Virginia Democrat isn’t the first to raise concerns about the bill’s magnitude. He joined Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat, in expressing concern about the price tag. In a statement last month, she declared, “I do not support a package that costs $3.5 trillion.”

Their hesitancy highlights the struggle Biden and other Democratic leaders will have in uniting rank-and-file Democrats behind the new spending package while maintaining their razor-thin House and Senate majority. It could indicate price reductions to keep everyone on board.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accepted this reality later on Wednesday. “What we’re doing here isn’t simple; we’ve worked hard for months to get here, and we have no illusions – perhaps the hardest work is yet to come,” he remarked. “However, we are unified in our resolve to complete the task.”

Reconciliation is a specific legislative path that the budget blueprint is taking. Instead of the 60 votes required in the Senate, this track requires only a simple majority vote to pass. However, all 50 Senate Democrats are likely to be required to pass the plan, which would require a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris against what is almost certainly going to be unanimous GOP opposition.

Medicare will be expanded to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage under the spending plan unveiled on Monday. It would also establish a nationwide paid family and medical leave program, as well as tuition-free community college, a child allowance, and climate-change-fighting programs. Democrats also plan to establish a road to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Manchin has shifted positions frequently in an apparent attempt to boost his influence over the legislative process, comparable to his successful push to reduce the amount and length of federal unemployment insurance in the stimulus bill. He said earlier this year that he would support $4 trillion in infrastructure spending if it was paid for. He now looks to be reversing his position.

The idea already falls short of what some progressives had hoped for. The budget resolution’s principal author was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Budget Committee. He wanted $6 trillion in extra spending at first, but ended up with $3.5 trillion, which is still a large sum after Congress approved $6 trillion in emergency spending to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the concession, Sanders calls the spending plan “the most important piece of legislation for working families since FDR and the New Deal.” Manchin and Sinema could play a key role in determining whether or not that happens.

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