Manchin says he won’t back $1.75 trillion economic agenda bill without ‘greater clarity’ about its effects

Sen. Joe Manchin said he won’t support the $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill Democrats are negotiating until there is “greater clarity” about the impact it will have on the country’s national debt and the economy, a warning sign for Democratic leaders trying to pass a pair of legislative packages key to President Joe Biden’s agenda as soon as this week.

“Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact that it will have on our national debt, our economy and most importantly all of our American people,” Manchin said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Manchin also called on the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and warned, in an implicit rebuke to progressives, that “holding this bill hostage” won’t work in getting him to support the larger social spending and economic package. Manchin has been non-committal about that larger package since Biden released a framework, but reiterated major concerns today.

The moderate Democrat from West Virginia has been coy about his views of this proposal, despite months of efforts by Biden and his team to court the senator to back a pared back plan. But Manchin has been concerned about a number of proposals, including an expansion of Medicare.

The bill is not yet finalized, but Biden announced a framework last week spelling out key details and the plan is poised to grow the entitlement program to cover hearing benefits but stops short of vision and dental coverage as many liberals had demanded.

Manchin told CNN on Monday he plans to soon make a statement. “I think I will clear up a lot of things sometime today,” he said.

Asked him to explain what that meant, he said: “I think there needs to be clarity on where everybody stands.” He later said: “I’m gonna put clarity to it.”

Manchin suggested to CNN last week he was supportive of the $1.75 trillion price tag, but he has not weighed in on the overall proposal as well as many of the details.

Manchin’s comments come at a crucial time for Biden’s agenda. If he indicates he’s unlikely to support the sweeping economic spending package that could cause liberals in the House to withhold their support from a separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan as part of an effort to pressure him to fall in line.

Democrats plan to pass the plan using a process known as budget reconciliation that would allow them to approve the measure in the Senate without any GOP votes. But that means they would need all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to vote for it. That dynamic has given Manchin as well as another key moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, outsized influence in the process.

The plan would represent a massive investment in key liberal priorities and a significant expansion of the social safety net. It would focus on expanding access to health care, addressing the climate crisis and increasing aid to families among a number of provisions, and stands as a centerpiece of the President’s domestic agenda.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Monday.

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