WASHINGTON — Democrats stepped closer to an agreement on President Joe Biden’s agenda as Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been pushing to shrink the size of a sweeping social-spending package, said a deal on the outlines of the plan is within reach this week.
Manchin’s expression of optimism Monday marked a turnabout from his forecast last week of drawn-out negotiations, and mark the best recent sign for Biden’s domestic agenda after months of intra-party wrangling over tax and spending increases.
Still, there were numerous parts of the plan still being negotiated as Democrats tried to find a compromise acceptable to moderates like Manchin and the party’s progressives.
“There’s just so many moving parts,” Manchin said after leaving a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats later in the day. “Everyone is trying to deal in as good faith as they can to make this all happen.”
An agreement could allow the House this week to pass a separate, $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Progressive Democrats in the House have held up that legislation until there’s agreement within the party on the broader package, which includes spending on social programs and measures to address climate change.
“We want to have something to give our progressives confidence we will do both bills,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday evening. “We don’t have a timeline” for the infrastructure vote, he said.
Manchin said he hasn’t moved on his insistence that the overall price tag for the tax and spending package be limited to $1.5 trillion rather than the $3.5 trillion originally set out by Democratic leaders. And he indicated actual legislation is far from being drafted.
“Having it finished with all the ‘t’s’ and ‘i’s’ and everything crossed and dotted will be difficult from the Senate side, because we have an awful lot of text to go through,” Manchin said Monday morning. “But as far as conceptually, we should. I think a framework should be” feasible this week, he said.
Manchin is a pivotal player in negotiations on the tax and spending package along with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who also has raised objections to elements of the package. Both are key Democratic votes in the 50-50 Senate.
Manchin met on Sunday with Biden and Schumer in an effort to break a monthslong stalemate. Biden said Monday he hopes to get an agreement on the plan before he leaves Thursday for summits in Europe that include a UN climate change conference in Glasgow.