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Democrats face their Manchin and Sinema dilemma

“Joe is Joe. Joe is going to hammer it, like he wants to hammer it and go from there. We both have similar values, but we certainly don’t think the same way, ”added Tester, who is more comfortable with the $ 3.5 trillion spending figure that Manchin dismissed but wants. let him be paid. He said the two had not discussed the reconciliation bill in detail.

As consideration of the partisan spending bill draws near, Manchin (DW.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.) Aim to cut the package so much that it could endanger much of the work. of the House so far in the completion of several sections. of the $ 3.5 trillion package. The party had hoped to have a bill that could pass both the House and the Senate this month, a goal that seems increasingly Herculean.

On Sunday, Manchin suggested he would support spending at maybe half that level, or whatever can be paid for through tax increases. Still, he wants lower tax increases than envisioned by some fellow Democrats in Congress, which could lower the bill further. And with a majority of 50 seats, all Manchin accepts can be the final deal that can be passed by Congress.

“If we assume what he says, and you need 50 votes, it will be something less than [$3.5T]Said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), A member of the Democratic leadership, who rebutted Manchin’s calls to slow down consideration of the bill. “We have some pretty big crises in front of our faces. We don’t have to wait until the end of the road, when we talk about forest fires and what’s going on with the climate. “

While Sinema specifically rejected the $ 3.5 trillion figure, she has otherwise been quieter than Manchin about her exact position. A spokesperson for Sinema said she “will consider the committee’s various proposals and continue to work in good faith while engaging with her colleagues and the administration.”

But the two are often aligned, and Manchin calls for a more deliberative process that envisions a much smaller government expansion than most Democrats prefer.

Manchin appeared on three Sunday shows, training with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Who slashed his ambitions from $ 6 trillion in spending to $ 3.5 trillion. And Manchin’s disproportionate influence is on some Democrats.

Several Senate Democrats declined to answer reporters’ questions on Monday about Manchin’s latest objections. Senator Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) said: “I can’t answer everything Joe Manchin says, it’s not my job. And after saying on Sunday that Manchin’s stance to lower the bill was “absolutely unacceptable to me,” Sanders simply said the $ 3.5 trillion package was “extremely popular with the American people,” when we asked him on Monday.

These reserved comments highlight the reality of Democrats: they need Manchin’s vote and criticizing him doesn’t help them.

“We have 50 Democrats, we need them all,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Manchin and Sinema’s growing public concerns over the Democrats’ social spending plan come more than a month after the Senate’s 50 Democrats backed their $ 550 billion bipartisan infrastructure plan. While many caucus members were not enthusiastic about the bill, they nonetheless supported it on the understanding that their priorities would be addressed in a second bill.

Now it’s likely Democrats will miss Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Sept. 15 target for committees to complete the text of the budget reconciliation bill, which may escape GOP obstruction and be adopted by simple majority. And the progressives’ hope to pass the social spending package by September 27, the date President Nancy Pelosi set for the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package, increasingly looks like a long plan.

“We have work to do… there are clearly differences,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “There has to be an element of flexibility on both sides. The margins are so narrow in the House and the Senate that you cannot assume anything. “

Several House Democrats have signaled they may oppose all or part of the party’s reconciliation bill, another sign of difficulties ahead for Democrats who can only afford to lose four votes in this chamber. . And in the Senate, there are still Democrats other than Manchin who have not signed the $ 3.5 trillion package.

But Manchin and Sinema remain the toughest of Democrats.

“I do not agree with Senator Manchin’s concern about size, but I do agree that we have to listen to each other and come to an agreement,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “There will be more and more negotiations.”