Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters today that $1.5 trillion is the most he’s willing to agree to for his party’s plan to expand the social safety net – but that hasn’t been a secret. In fact, Manchin has been saying that publicly for weeks, and privately for months.
The top line figure is consistent with a document from this summer obtained by Politico that shows more detail about what Manchin may want from a social safety net bill. A Senate Democratic aide confirmed to CNN the authenticity of the document Thursday.
Manchin threw out that same number during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on Sept. 12.
“It sounds like $1.5 trillion is your number?” Bash asked.
“I have looked at numbers. If we have a competitive tax code from a noncompetitive… doesn’t help the working person that was done in 2017. That’s in the $1-$1.5 (trillion) range, okay? If that’s where it is, shouldn’t you be looking at, what does it take now to meet the urgent needs that we have that we haven’t already met?” Manchin said.
“It’s not going to be at $3.5 (trillion), I can assure you,” he also said in the interview.
Manchin said today that he has informed President Biden that was his number, and Biden said he needed more than that.
“I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form,” Manchin said. “I’m willing to come from zero to 1.5 (trillion).”
Before Manchin’s public comments Thursday, many Democrats seemed unaware of where Manchin stood on his top line figure.
“I want to know what Joe’s number is,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin on Thursday. “And I want to remind him that we have increases in taxes on the wealthiest people in America, and on corporations that are not paying their fair share now.”
“If you actually pay for what you’re doing, as we’re doing, it’s not inflationary, and I think he understands that,” Durbin added.
Watch the interview from Sept. 12:
More background on Manchin’s figure: The Democrats’ Build Back Better Act would expand the child tax credit and Medicare’s ability to cover vision, hearing and dental care, fund community college and universal pre-kindergarten initiatives, combat climate change, and fund elder care and paid leave programs. The $3.5 trillion bill would be paid for, at least in part, by tax increases primarily on corporations and the wealthy.
But Manchin has noted that Congress has spent $5.4 trillion since last March in response to the pandemic. In a statement Wednesday, Manchin asked, “At some point, all of us regardless of party must ask the simple question – how much is enough?” For many progressives, $1.5 trillion will not be.
CNN’s Alex Rogers, Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav, Lauren Fox and Morgan Rimmer contributed reporting to this post.