Senate Democrats remain in the dark about whether Sen. Joe Manchin will end up striking a deal with President Joe Biden on any version of a Build Back Better Act, and are becoming skeptical of the West Virginia Democrat’s end game and less confident over whether he’ll come to an agreement on the legislation.
“It’s not like a normal negotiation and that’s what is frustrating Biden and frustrating everybody,” a Democrat senator who requested anonymity, told The Hill.
He added that Manchin will often tell colleagues that he has an open mind about some proposals, or even that he likes some of them, but he is no closer to signing off on the spending package than he has been all along.
Another Democrat senator, also requesting to remain anonymous when talking about Manchin, said he has “no reason” to think that the West Virginian wants to agree to pass Build Back Better or to change the Senate rules to bypass a Republican filibuster against voting rights legislation.
Manchin said last month in a television interview that he could not support the bill because he is concerned over rising inflation and the need to watch government spending. He also told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval that he had never signed off on a White House statement claiming he had “reiterated his support” for the bill “at the level of the framework plan.”
“That was the president’s statement,” Manchin told Kercheval. “That wasn’t my statement.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., says he has no idea about whether Manchin wants a deal, and he’s “still in the dark” about what his colleague wants.
Last week, Manchin said he does not have any plans to talk to Biden any time soon about reviving the stalled bill.
Manchin also held out last year against moving the budget reconciliation bill and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which was passed, together.
Some Democrats are calling for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to move on from Build Back Better, but Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, called on Schumer to bring the bill to the floor for an immediate vote, even if Manchin doesn’t support it.
There are still some Democrats, however, who say Manchin could change his mind.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told The Hill that he does think Manchin wants to reach a deal, even if there are parts of the current legislation the West Virginian doesn’t like.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., also said he thinks Manchin is being “sincere in trying to work things out.”
The Democrat caucus is debating how much longer should be spent trying to pass the bill, said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who wants to keep working on the legislation in hopes that Manchin will agree to a deal.
“He was for a long period of time very, very supportive of a lot of elements of the bill — home and community-based services, childcare, pre-K,” Casey said. “He supported a lot of the big component parts.”