Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was a key swing vote for the Democratic Party. He asked for more time to evaluate the economic and fiscal impact of the $1.85 trillion bill.
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Authors: Emily Cochrane, Jonathan Weisman, and Margot Sanger-Katz
WASHINGTON - On Monday, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia raised new doubts about a new compromise of a $1.85 trillion climate change and social safety net bill, warning that he had serious reservations about the plan. He also criticized the liberals in his party for calling him an "all or nothing" position.
Mr. Manchin’s attack during his appearance at the Capitol threatened to overturn the Democrats’ ambitions to vote on President Biden’s two legislative priorities this week, even though lawmakers are meeting for the president’s ambitious week that should have been an important one. Domestic agenda.
At the same time, congressional negotiators are about to reach a final agreement on social policy and climate legislation, which progressives say is a prerequisite for supporting a separate, $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Senior officials are finalizing the last-minute details of the policy plan, including a plan to curb rising prescription drug costs, which Biden did not mention in the outline submitted on Thursday. The Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said that negotiators had almost reached a compromise that included an annual cap of $2,000 for out-of-pocket prescription drug expenditures for American seniors. Insulin will also be subject to price restrictions, rebates will be given to drugs whose prices have risen faster than inflation, and the government's power to negotiate drug prices will also be limited.
But Mr. Manchin is likely to disrupt the last pass this week. The substance of his speech is not much. For months, he has been expressing concerns about the financial and economic impact of the social policy bill, and other lawmakers have also expressed their desire to review the full text and official costs before supporting it. It also reflects similar requests from some members of the House of Representatives who will vote on the broader social policy bill first.
But Mr. Manchin’s tone once again caused some concerns among House Democrats that his vote might not win. The Democrats have reduced their proposals drastically—from $3.5 trillion to about half—mainly to win the support of him and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, another centrist opponent.
Due to the equal distribution of the Senate, the defect of a Democrat will undermine social policy and climate legislation, which is the core of the president’s domestic agenda. Mr. Biden privately assured House Democrats last week that his outline was supported by 50 Senate Democrats and independents.
"Although I have been trying to find a way to compromise, obviously compromise is not good enough for some people in Congress," Manchin said on Monday as he read the prepared speech because he obviously mentioned liberals in the House of Representatives. . "Either all or nothing, unless we agree to everything, their position does not seem to change. Just enough."
He warned: "I am willing to support a final bill that will help our country move forward, but I am also willing to vote against a bill that harms our country."
White House officials and major Democrats scrambled to downplay Manchin’s remarks, insisting that the package is still in progress. They quickly refuted his financial concerns and issued a statement describing how the legislation was written to be fully funded and help create jobs. They cited a letter from 17 Nobel Prize winners in economics who predicted that the plan would ease inflationary pressures in the long term.
But some Democrats are loudly worried that the senator’s complaints have further exacerbated distrust of the fragile agreement in the final stage of the negotiations.
"You don't want to continue to set up barriers-if you do, it will never be passed," said Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who helped negotiate the infrastructure bill. When asked whether the liberals made a mistake in opposing a planned vote on the bill last week, Mr. Teste said, "Of course, but I think it was a mistake for Joe to go out to the press conference today."
Mr. Manchin not only found an error in the overall price tag, but also found an error in the structure of the bill. Its authors gradually implemented some policies over time and abruptly terminated most of the plans-some of them after a year-hoping to show that the plan will not increase the deficit in 10 years.
But supporters frankly admitted that they hope that the future Congress can extend many of these plans. This is a common strategy under budget rules, but Mr. Manchin called it a dishonest stunt, which he said would threaten social security. And the future of medical insurance. (These plans are funded by dedicated trust funds and are not directly affected by the Act.)
Mr. Manchin also expressed personal anger, condemning liberals in the House of Representatives for refusing to vote for infrastructure measures without reaching a final agreement on the details of domestic policy plans.
"Holding that bill hostage will not allow me to support what you want," he said, but he refused to answer questions, including how long it would take him to evaluate the bill.
The infrastructure bill that Mr. Manchin helped to formulate as the main negotiator also has its budget fraud. Non-partisans estimate that it will add 256 billion U.S. dollars to the deficit in 10 years, less than half of the new spending in the bill.
Despite Mr. Manchin’s comments, several legislators, including liberal lawmakers who refused to vote for the infrastructure bill, expected the final victory sooner or later.
"I will trust the President, our members will trust the President, and we will do what we need to do," said Washington Representative Pramila Jayapar, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, adding that once the text is complete, She will support voting on these two bills.
"Jo Manchin cannot determine the future of our country," Missouri Democrat Rep. Corey Bush said in a statement. "I don't believe his assessment of what our community needs most."
Congressional negotiators continue to work hard to improve the framework proposed by Mr. Biden.
As with much of the climate and social policy bill, the final piece of the puzzle—prescription drug measures—may not be as ambitious as initially envisaged. Medical insurance does not have extensive power to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, but will be granted power to certain drugs provided as outpatient services, such as chemotherapy drugs, and limited quantities of drugs purchased at nearby pharmacies.
Most of the savings of American seniors will come from the cap on out-of-pocket expenses and the requirement of pharmaceutical companies to give government rebates for drugs whose prices rise faster than inflation. The regulation of rising drug prices will apply to all Americans, not just those with health insurance.
Mr. Biden’s framework did not mention any prescription savings, which angered some Democrats, angered the older American lobby group AARP, and prompted negotiations to be late for the entire weekend.
Rep. Angie Craig, Democrat of Minnesota, who won the Republican district in 2018, said: “Last week, we all went from disappointment to anger.” The House of Representatives supports Democrats, and that is our goal. "
This omission surprised legislators and lobbyists alike, because the film company has been negotiating with the White House on this issue to reach a compromise.
The legislation of California Democrat Rep. Scott Peters (Scott Peters) used to be a template for discussions between film companies and the White House. He said that although Democrats may push for more extensive government drug price negotiations on them for decades Disappointed by his failure, his plan will have an impact on consumers.
Keeping the status quo, he said, "it makes no sense at all."
The latest proposal adds some drugs purchased in retail pharmacies, but it will not affect most of the expensive prescription drugs currently taken by Medicare patients.
Many Democratic lawmakers have pledged to lower prescription drug prices, a popular message supported by the majority of voters in Democrats and Republicans. But this promise was strongly resisted by the powerful pharmaceutical industry, which has been spending millions of dollars on TV advertising and sending lobbyists to Capitol Hill to defend it.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said on Monday, “Just because there are pharmaceutical lobbyists in every corner, it doesn’t mean we should stop doing the right thing.” She urged her colleagues. We cheer up.
The proposal under discussion will solve a major problem for some elderly people by limiting how much they can spend on drugs in a year. There is currently no such limit, allowing some patients to pay $15,000 or more per year.
But regulations to reduce drug prices will be limited. The proposal would allow the Minister of Health and Human Services to negotiate the price of a small number of drugs.
The Democrats also hope that some form of immigration relief can be included in the final plan.
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois stated that they plan to meet with members of Congress as early as Tuesday to discuss their alternate plan, which will expand the powers of the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant Temporary status for parole. Undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for ten years are provided with work permits and protected from deportation.