The billionaire investor Nelson Peltz told CNBC that he called Sen. Joe Manchin weekly.
Peltz encourages Manchin as the senator seeks to slim down Biden's climate and social bill, he said.
Progressives say Manchin is in the pocket of big-money donors, a claim he denies.
The billionaire investor Nelson Peltz told CNBC that he spoke with Sen. Joe Manchin weekly and offered him encouragement amid the Democratic centrist's efforts to whittle down President Joe Biden's sweeping social-care and climate-crisis reconciliation bill.
Peltz, in an interview Wednesday on CNBC's "Halftime Report," praised the West Virginia senator, saying Manchin was "keeping our elected officials somewhere in the middle."
"Joe is the most important guy in DC, maybe the most important guy in America today," Peltz, who added that he and Manchin had been friends for 10 years, said.
"I call him every week and say, 'Joe, you're doing great. Stay tough. Stay tough, buddy.' He's phenomenal," the billionaire said.
Manchin and his fellow Democratic centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have objected to the scale and expense of Biden's proposed domestic-spending program.
Biden had originally sought a $3.5 trillion bill, which would be passed using a mechanism called budget reconciliation that requires the support of all 50 Democratic senators.
But Manchin's and Sinema's objections mean the bill has been significantly reduced, with a package costing about $1.5 trillion being discussed.
The opposition has enraged progressives, some of whom have accused Manchin of being in the pocket of wealthy donors and lobbyists, including energy-industry billionaires who usually donate to Republican candidates.
In a CNN interview in September, Manchin denied claims by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that he met weekly with energy-industry lobbyists and said his objections to the larger reconciliation bill were based on concerns about inflation and government debt.
Peltz, the founder of Trian Partners, was formerly a supporter of Donald Trump, hosting a fundraiser for the president at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, in February 2020, where, according to CNN, tickets cost half a million dollars per couple.
He withdrew his support for Trump after the January 6 riot.
According to OpenSecrets, Manchin is one of the many Democratic and Republican lawmakers to whom Peltz has donated money.
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