What do Manchin and Sinema want?


By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

What do Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema want? That’s a question President Biden tried to drill down on Wednesday as he sat down with the pair of centrist Democratic senators who hold the keys to advancing the cornerstone spending plan of his presidency.

Biden on Wednesday met separately with the two senators, sitting down with Sinema in the morning before convening with Manchin in the evening as the pair imperil the chances of passing the party’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package (The Hill).

The discussions signaled direct presidential involvement after weeks of focus on Afghanistan and natural disasters. Biden’s decision to step in pleased Democrats, some of whom looked for the president to weigh in ahead of key September deadlines.

“The ones who are negotiating publicly, I think it is fair to say, they’re the toughest votes to get,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said of Manchin and Sinema. “This is really important for the Biden administration and so it’s all on deck.”

“Both Joe and Kyrsten really want [Biden] to be a successful president. A) It’s good for the country. B) It’s good for their states. C) It’s good for their own politics,” Kaine told The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.

While Biden makes his play, Democrats are asking what Manchin wants as he balks at the price tag on the pending reconciliation measure, writes The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes.

But the West Virginia centrist’s public posturing is rankling progressives, who complain that the entire debate doesn’t revolve around their moderate counterpart, and sparking hope among Republicans that he could help water down the Democratic blueprint. Of course, any reconciliation bill cannot survive without unanimity within the Senate Democratic ranks.

The Washington Post: Manchin gets all the attention. But Sinema could be an even bigger obstacle for Democrats’ spending plans.

Politico: “Now is the time”: Biden’s influence faces Capitol crucible.

Reuters: House Democrats advance tax-hike plan as rifts open over Biden spending bill.

The Associated Press: Biden $3.5 trillion plan tests voter appeal of expansive government role.

Elsewhere in the reconciliation fight, the Democratic plan to lower drug prices was defeated in a House committee on Wednesday, with three moderate Democrats — Reps. Scott Peters (Calif.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) — voting against their party. The committee vote is a striking setback for the reconciliation effort, as drug pricing is intended to be a key way to pay for the package.

Leadership can still add a version of the provision later in the process, but the move shows the depth of some moderate concerns (The Hill).

Adding to the troubles, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), a centrist member, was the only House Democrat to vote against advancing the reconciliation package out of the House Ways and Means Committee, saying in a statement that some of the spending and tax provisions in the legislation “give me pause.” She added that she could not “vote for the bill at this early stage” as a result (The Hill).

Politico: Centrist Democrats scramble House drug pricing effort.

Axios: The debt ceiling stare down.

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