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Manchin huddles with progressives over spending bill divide: 'We're talking'

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Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia centrist and one of two holdouts on a massive Democratic spending bill, emerged from the U.S. Capitol Monday by the side of Senate Budget Committee Chairman and socialist Bernie Sanders, who has slammed Manchin for refusing to support a $3.5 trillion measure.

"We're talking," the two told reporters as they headed for separate cars.

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Manchin met earlier in the day with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat who heads the House Progressive Caucus. The two discussed their own priorities for the spending bill, which is the cornerstone of President Joe Biden's economic agenda.

Biden has been talking by phone with lawmakers and plans to meet with centrists and liberals in person on Tuesday.


Democrats are scrambling to bridge what has become an increasingly bitter party divide over the measure.

Manchin said he won't support a spending bill that costs more than $1.5 trillion and he opposes many key provisions in the bill on green energy provisions and entitlements.

Liberal Democrats are angry, arguing the $3.5 trillion package is lower than what they had hoped to pass and none are ready to concede on the policy provisions Machin is seeking to change or eliminate.

Over the weekend, Sanders, a Vermont independent, published an op-ed in West Virginia’s Charleston Gazette-Mail, calling out Manchin for his opposition to the $3.5 trillion package.

“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation,” Sanders wrote. “Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote yes. We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.”

Manchin, a popular political figure in his home state who served in elected office for nearly four decades, fired back at Sanders.

“This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Manchin said in a statement, adding that the nation is struggling with supply chain issues, inflation, and thousands of unfilled jobs. “Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that.”

Biden last month told lawmakers they will have to lower the cost of the bill to roughly $2 trillion to appease Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, another centrist Democrat.

On Monday evening, the two warring lawmakers stood arm and arm in front of the Senate.

"Get a picture of us," Manchin told reporters.

Sanders added, "We're talking — we are going to make some progress."

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Sanders told reporters the two agree on some things. "We understand that we're getting ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry. They understand that climate change is an existential threat," Sanders said.

Democrats are at odds over how to lower drug prices. Progressives want to allow the government to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices, but some centrist Democrats believe that will threaten the creation of new and lifesaving drugs.

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Tags: News, Congress, Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders, Progressivism, Pharmaceutical Industry

Original Author: Susan Ferrechio

Original Location: Manchin huddles with progressives over spending bill divide: 'We're talking'

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