Inside Manchin-Sander’s feud that has Democrats nervous about Biden’s agenda

Because when they do, the California Democrat suggested, it would almost certainly satisfy the moderate and liberal wing of the Democratic assembly, which has been fighting over the size, scope and details of the plan for months.

But Biden, according to several sources in the virtual meeting, told the progressive House Democrats that he has been in politics for a long time – and getting them gathered in the same room would almost be like “killing.” The group laughed as Biden then made a joke about getting into the boxing ring with Khanna herself.

The previously unreported exchange underscores the grim reality for Democrats on Capitol Hill: The two men – Sanders and Manchin – are trillions apart on their price tags, have vastly different ideas about what policies are needed, disagree on the breadth of new social programs in the proposal and are diametrically opposed to a key pillar of the package: tackling climate change.

And increasingly, the feud has become public.

“I can not speak for Mr Manchin. I am not a psychologist,” Sanders recently told CNN when asked about Manchin’s criticism of the economic package.

Getting them to agree is crucial for Democrats to be able to pass the most far-reaching social policy bill since the New Deal, because all 50 senators in their assembly must be on board. And the public disputes between Sanders, an independent in Vermont who is a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist and believes in a far-reaching federal government, and Manchin, a conservative Western virgin who in recent days has pushed back for a “just society” – – have created growing concern within the ranks.

“I just think it’s a matter of getting them in the same room,” Senator Jon Tester said Thursday. Asked if he is concerned about their disagreements, the Montana Democrat said bluntly, “Yes.”

Moderate Democrats were betrayed by their own party
They have very different strategies. Manchin accused the House Democrats of stopping the $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in August, while Sanders helped rally the House Progressives to withhold their support for the plan until moderates supported the larger package of social expenses.
Democrats say it may be enough to have the two sign up for a package to win over moderate House Democrats – many of whom take their tracks from both Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – and the progressive wing of the House that fell pretty much in line behind Sanders’ race for president in 2020.
Far more congressional Democrats are adapting to Sanders’ views than with Manchins, so the frustration is based on the West Virginia Democrat – both over his refusal to gut filibuster to raise the government debt ceiling and his reluctance to divulge much of his negotiations on the larger economic package.

Neither Manchin nor Sinema spoke at their meeting during a lunch meeting on Thursday, where they talked about their plans to move the Biden agenda.

And Democrats say it’s not unusual.

“Off the charts,” a Democratic senator told CNN on Thursday when asked about the frustration of the assembly over Manchin, claiming that many senators privately complained that the West Virginia Democrat takes his public positions for “publicity” reasons.

Biden himself has sounded excited about both Manchin and Sinema, according to Democratic lawmakers who have spoken to him. The president told progressives this week that he has spent many hours with the two senators “and they are not moving,” two sources said. Biden even claimed that Sinema did not always return calls from the White House, the sources added.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the president’s private remarks.

Why the Senate no longer works

But getting Sanders – who has pushed the $ 3.5 trillion proposal – and Manchin, who on Wednesday reiterated that $ 1.5 trillion was his top line after flirting with a higher figure in an exchange with CNN earlier this week, to compromise, seems harder during the day.

On Wednesday, Sanders scheduled a last-minute press conference to go point by point through his concerns about Manchin, who earlier in the day had told reporters: “I do not think we should make our society a rights society. I think we still have to be a compassionate, rewarding community. “

Sanders later sued Manchin for using “vague wording.” Then he took his criticism an extra notch up.

“So my concern with Mr. Manchin is not so much what his views are – I disagree with them – but it’s that it’s wrong, is really not playing fair that one or two people think they should could stop what 48 members of the Democratic Assembly want, what the American people want, what the President of the United States wants, “Sanders said.

He added: “So, Senator Manchin has the right to fight for his point of view, not only has the right to be heard, he has the right to make some compromises. He is a member of the Senate. But two people do not have the right to to sabotage what 48 wants and what the President of the United States wants. That is wrong for me. ”

Manchin downplayed the dispute with Sanders on Thursday.

“We know each other,” Manchin told CNN when asked about his colleague’s criticism. “I do not take anything personally.”

Few, however, have a clear sense of how the two can resolve their disagreements. While they interact one-on-one on the floor of the Senate, there are rarely meetings with just the two of them. They are both part of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s leadership team – and their disagreements often play out behind closed doors, senators say.

“I just think it’s better to have leaders in the room with them, trying to bridge their differences,” Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Thursday after the luncheon.

How Democrats could shrink their $ 3.5 trillion spending plan

Asked about the leadership meetings, Durbin said: “In a polite and civil manner, they disagree. But I think it is constructive. That conversation should take place for both of them.”

Manchin has sent his differences directly to Biden, met with him behind closed doors on Thursday and even written down his demands in July to Schumer, calling for means testing and “auto bars” for many of the new social programs and using ceilings on existing programs and limiting corporate tax rates to 25%.
Still, it is Sanders who has pushed for more expansive plans for child tax deductions, universal pre-K and tuition-free community college along with aggressive incentives aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, something that would have a direct impact on the West Virginia coal industry.

Democrats say they hope the two come to an agreement. But no one knows exactly how.

“I can not quite say that,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, when asked how to get the two aligned on the package. “But I’m convinced we get it.”

CNN’s Ted Barrett, Betsy Klein, and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.


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