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Sen. Manchin told Politico that "there is no timeline" for the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill.
The senator's position is at odds with Democratic leaders, who want to see both infrastructure bills signed into law this year.
Manchin has expressed reservations about the cost of the reconciliation bill, which would be passed on a party-line vote.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Thursday insisted that "there is no timeline" for the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, a stance that threatens the momentum that President Joe Biden and party leaders have sought to build as they push for votes on the legislation next week.
Biden and Democratic leaders, angling for passage of the gargantuan reconciliation package that would provide critical investments in healthcare, childcare, and climate initiatives, have pleaded with moderate holdouts to identify a figure that could possibly attract their support for the bill.
While many of Manchin's colleagues are hoping that the influential senator will point out what he'd like to see cut from the bill, he is in no rush to take such action, as he feels that funding for spending programs is sufficient to last through the end of the year.
"What's the need? There is no timeline. I want to understand it," Manchin expressed in an interview with Politico. "I don't think anything runs out. Right now, we've got good nutrition for children, a lot of things are covered right now clear [into] next year."
The senator's statement makes it extraordinarily difficult to foresee a reconciliation deal being put together ahead of a House vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which could come as soon as Sept. 27, a self-imposed deadline that was set last month after the successful passage of the bipartisan bill that easily passed in the Senate.
In the evenly-divided Senate, Democrats need every member to be on board for the reconciliation package to pass, and Manchin - along with fellow moderate Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - wield incredible influence over the bill, which is slated to include tax increases on the wealthy and tuition-free community college, among many other items.
Manchin does not have the same sense of urgency as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who must contend with unrest about the larger reconciliation package from moderates who want to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill regardless of the larger bill's fate and progressives who feel that the larger bill should be passed in tandem with the bipartisan bill.
However, the senator has signaled a willingness to compromise on the reconciliation bill, versus outright opposition to the sweeping legislation.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a fellow moderate, said as much to Politico.
"I don't think Joe is unworkable, I think, look he's fiscally conservative, OK? So, $3.5 trillion is a lot of money, it shakes into his soul," he said to the publication. "We can get to a point where we're all happy. Maybe not tickled, but happy."
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Budget Committee, who has insisted that the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package should remain at that level, said earlier this week on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he expects the party "to come together again and do what has to be done."
Manchin, in admitting that his "strategic pause" of the $3.5 trillion framework is largely at odds with the rest of the Democratic caucus, said that he wanted to further "understand" the pacing of the bill.
"I've always said pause. I thought because this is such a big thing. Right now I can tell they're not moving for a pause and looking for a pause," the senator said. "I don't know what the time frame is, but I want to understand it right now before I do anything."
'Everybody knows me pretty well'
As is the case with many substantive pieces of legislation, Manchin has been heavily courted by his colleagues in the Senate caucus, along with Biden, who has met him twice in recent days.
However, according to Politico, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois isn't "actively whipping" Manchin, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York continues to speak highly of the West Virginian.
"Everybody knows me pretty well. My mind is my mind, not theirs," Manchin told the publication. "I wouldn't think I could do anything to change their minds. I think Bernie [Sanders] is sincere, he has a very social mindset and he is who he is to the core. I hope he'll respect me. I'm not anywhere near that."
GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was skeptical that Manchin will broker a deal to allow the reconciliation bill to pass in the coming weeks.
"I'd be surprised if he cut a deal that allowed him to do it this fall," he said. "He's been consistent."
Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are vehemently opposed to the Democratic reconciliation package - and are also refusing to support a short-term government funding bill, which Democrats have paired with an increase in the federal debt ceiling.
While Sinema has also balked at the cost of the reconciliation bill, she has signaled support for climate provisions that Manchin has opposed.
A Democratic senator who spoke anonymously to Politico said that Manchin and Sinema are taking different approaches in tackling the bill.
"Kyrsten recognizes there's a timeline, there's got to be a process," the senator told the publication, while Manchin is "coming at it from a values perspective first and saying 'I am happy to support this or this or this but not in this way or not at this time.'"
Despite Manchin's continued skepticism of the reconciliation bill, Democrats are confident that he will join them in passing the legislation, as he did with the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that passed along party lines in March.
"None of us like artificial deadlines and he doesn't make a decision before he needs to," Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told Politico. "When we need him, he's there. And I would be surprised if that were any different this time."
Read the original article on Business Insider