Manchin, Sinema Talk Reconciliation Bill, Path Forward Still Unknown
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., finally got a chance to talk to Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., Tuesday about the slimmed down reconciliation bill he negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., last week, but the way forward is still anybody’s guess.
Sinema, who presided over the Senate chamber Tuesday has yet to say anything publicly about the bill, and a spokesperson in her office said earlier this week that she was waiting for the Senate parliamentarian to weigh in on the package’s climate provisions before making a statement.
In the meantime, Manchin has been constantly pursued by reporters on Capitol Hill, to learn even a meager scrap of new information.
During a gaggle with reporters on Tuesday, Manchin made clear that he is open to Sinema’s suggestions for changes to the bill, but he declined to reveal whether she’s in fact asked for any at this point.
As it stands now, the bill would raise about $739 billion in new revenue over the next decade and reduce the deficit by more than $300 billion, while investing in climate measures and renewable energy and extending provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Because the package is moving forward through the so-called reconciliation process, it needs only 50 Democratic votes to get the bill to the Senate floor. At the same time, if Sinema is unhappy with the package, her one vote could sink it.
Still Manchin sounded guardedly optimistic that the bill ultimately will receive her approval.
“We’re exchanging text back and forth,” he said. “She’s always been extremely bright. She works hard. She makes good decisions based on facts. I’m reliant on that,” he said.
Going back to last year, when the broader reconciliation bill was being considered, Sinema played an outsized role in determining the shape and breadth of both the tax reform provisions of the package and the prescription drug proposals rolled into it.
However, when Manchin released a press release last week, announcing he’d reached a deal with Schumer, the Arizona senator was as surprised as her Republican colleagues by the sudden turn of events.
Asked whether Sinema is upset with him, Manchin said he purposely tried to keep the number of people in the know small — basically including only Schumer and the staffers working on the measure in the loop — because he didn’t want to raise hopes for a deal only to see them dashed.
“She’s my dear friend,” he said of Sinema. “But why bring anyone in and all their aspirations get high and the drama we go through and it doesn’t work out?”
At the moment, he added, he and Sinema are “just basically exchanging back and forth whatever I have that she hasn’t seen.
“And our staff is working together very closely,” he added.
Manchin also responded to criticism from the coal industry which has said the wind and solar tax credits included in the package are going to lead to coal plant closures in West Virginia.
Manchin responded by saying the package includes investments for the energy the nation needs today as well as investment in the future.
“If you want to bring down inflation, you have to bring the cost of energy down right now,” he said. That means producing more gas and building new pipelines and speeding up the permitting process and getting things to the market quicker.
“So with that, we can invest so we can walk and chew gum. We do have to invest in the energy and the technologies of the future,” Manchin said. “The transition is going to happen, and it is going to happen whenever the market tells us it’s going to happen. The transition is not going to occur because any piece of legislation says it’s so.”