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Here Are the Two Major Issues Holding Up the Dems' Spending Bills...And It's Driving Them Insane

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

With each passing day, it looks like these spending bills are dead in the water. Both bills are terrible. Both cost over a trillion dollars. Both will balloon the debt and deficit. Both will negatively impact rising inflation. Joe Biden needs a win here. He needs a legislative accomplishment. The irony is that the one that is most likely to pass is being blocked by progressive Democrats. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has GOP support in both chambers. It would pass if it were on the docket first, but the far-left wants the so-called ‘human infrastructure’ package first—the $3.5 trillion one. This one has zero GOP support, so Democrats need to use reconciliation to get it through. Zero Democrats can’t defect which is the problem. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) oppose the initial bill—and both have different reasons which only increases the chances that these bills are dead in the water…for now.

Politico had a good post about these negotiations. Manchin is very open about the talks. Sinema is cagier, adding that she has made her position known to the Biden White House. They just don’t like what she has to say (via Politico):

The talks have been shrouded in mystery, but we have some fresh details we can share this morning.

More is known about Manchin than Sinema, and for a good reason: While Manchin has been willing to discuss his priorities in detail with his colleagues in the Senate, Sinema only negotiates with the White House.

“I'm not going to share with you or with Schumer or with Pelosi,” she told one Democratic senator recently. “I have already told the White House what I am willing to do and what I’m not willing to do. I'm not mysterious. It's not that I can't make up my mind. I communicated it to them in detail. They just don’t like what they’re hearing.”

Part of solving the Manchinema puzzle is that the 74-year-old former governor from a coal state and the 45-year-old former Green Party activist from Arizona are at odds on some major policies.

“Manchin and Sinema want very different things, both in terms of revenue and programs,” said a source close to Biden who spent the last few days talking to senior White House officials. “If you just took their currently presented red lines you wouldn’t have enough left to get this past progressives in the House and Senate. It wouldn’t raise enough money and it wouldn’t do enough big programs.”

The biggest obstacle Sinema has created, according to Democrats, is on prescription drug pricing reform.

The most robust version of this plan to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices would bring in some $500 billion of revenue at the expense of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s one of the most popular policies on the Democrats’ menu of options and many party strategists believe Democrats owe their House majority to this issue.

But we’re told that Democrats would be lucky if they managed to convince Sinema to support a version of drug pricing reform that raises even $200 billion.


The two senators are similarly at odds over climate policy: Manchin opposes several Democratic ideas to price carbon pollution, while Sinema favors them.

And here’s where Manchin is really driving his colleagues crazy. There are tens of thousands of coal jobs in West Virginia that are going to disappear as the economy transitions to clean energy. But when Democrats have proposed expensive programs to subsidize those workers’ income as they find new jobs, Manchin, we’re told, “rejected it out of hand,” calling the idea “welfare.”

Will something get done? It’s Washington. It’s very possible, but it’ll be watered down and then some. The problem is that the $3.5 trillion price tag is what progressives declare is the compromise. From the get-go, this spending offensive was a fiasco. First, Democrats overplayed their hand and overreached. They don’t have a 60-seat majority. It’s a split chamber in the Senate, and they have a four-seat majority in the House. The 2020 election was not a mandate for the Left or their action items. Biden is learning that the hard way. 

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