The plan came a day after President Joe Biden, during his State of the Union address, suggested refocusing his own more ambitious but stalled federal spending plan, which was chock full of pork for his far-left constituents.
But with the arrival of the election season, Biden made a calculated decision to pivot toward the center in his rhetoric, much to the chagrin of radicals who already felt cheated due to his policy failures.
Lacking any sort of legislative achievement may compound the political fallout that Democrats will likely face in November’s national reckoning.
Manchin, whose opposition doomed Biden’s 10-year, roughly $2 trillion measure in December, provided no figures or details. But in briefly describing his ideas to reporters, he provided a faint flicker of hope that Democrats might revive some version of Biden’s marquee legislative priority this election year.
Even so, by saying he wanted half the package to be for deficit reduction and controlling inflation, Manchin was suggesting a major reshaping of the legislation that would leave less room for Democratic priorities, making its prospects uncertain.
The entire effort has drawn unanimous Republican opposition, and it was sidelined in the evenly divided Senate after Manchin said before Christmas that he opposed a version of the bill that the House had passed.
“If you want to talk, don’t you think you should get your financial house in order,” Manchin said. “If they’re not serious about inflation and debt, then it would be hard for me to negotiate on anything.”
Democrats had falsely claimed the House-approved bill was mostly paid for and said it would help families cope with inflation by providing them with more federal help.
In reality, the primary cause of inflation is federal spending, which devalues the existing currency by adding additional debt into the economy.
The meager economic stimulus provided by Biden early on via the so-called American Rescue Plan proved to be not even half of what the average household was projected to face in additional financial burdens from the nearly double-digit inflation, the worst in four decades.
While Biden and Democrats have touted wage increases, those too fell short of offsetting the cost-of-living increases inflicted by the administration’s financial recklessness.
Manchin said there have been “no formal talks” over resuscitating the effort and said he has not discussed his ideas with the White House. He has said for months that the House-approved bill would fuel inflation, but he did not say Wednesday what he meant by using the legislation to curb price increases that have rippled across the economy.
Manchin said he wanted to raise revenue by boosting taxes on the rich and corporations and by curbing prices of the prescription drugs that Medicare buys for its beneficiaries. The savings not used for deficit reduction could go for a priority like using tax credits and other incentives to reduce pollutants that contribute to global warming.
All of those were in the Biden-backed bill that Manchin derailed in December. But the sidelined legislation was much broader, also including controversial initiatives like enhanced child tax credits, health-care subsidies and free pre-school.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden suggested a rebranded version of that package, though he used no numbers. He said the measure would help families cope with rising expenses and emphasized it should restrict drug prices, combat climate change and help with child care costs.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an avowed socialist who clashed repeatedly with Manchin over the social and environment bill, didn’t rule out accepting a smaller package if it included accomplishments like reducing prescription drug and child care costs. But he seemed reluctant to bow to Manchin’s proposals.
“Mr. Manchin doesn’t, last I heard, run the United States Senate. Our job is to bring forth the legislation that the American people want. Mr. Manchin can vote no,” Sanders said.
“A lot of discussions going on among senators,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said when asked if Biden’s words had prompted new movement on the push.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press