In the nearly evenly divided Senate and House, the tenuous Democratic majorities need all hands on deck if they hope to pass President Biden’s sweeping legislation to boost the economy and help families. That means just about every Democrat has tremendous leverage over what goes into a pending multi-trillion-dollar budget deal, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has shown this year by demanding Democratic bills hew toward the moderate center.
“We’re all Joe Manchin right now,” says House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).
“In a crucial moment for Democrats, party leaders are hunting for a sweet spot that would satisfy their rival moderate and progressive wings,” and they “are finding their search for middle ground arduous,” The Associated Press reports. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has floated a $6 trillion bill that could be based via budget reconciliation, negating the need for Republican votes, while Biden’s vision would come in at around $4 trillion and Manchin has proposed capping such legislation at $2 trillion.
Manchin was part of a bipartisan group of senators who came up with a consensus $1 trillion infrastructure package with nearly $600 billion in new spending. There are already enough votes to pass that package once it is turned into legislation, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition tells AP. “And when you have the votes you should take the vote.” Progressives say they may not vote for that package unless Congress also advances a budget deal that finances health care expansion, climate change mitigation, housing aid, child care and other family benefits, and expanded legal immigration.
Democrats can lose three or four House members for that vote but no Senate Democrats. That essentially gives every Senate Democrats and most House Democrats effective veto power, if they choose to use it — as GOP leaders evidently hope they will. “Everybody needs to advocate as clear as possible for their priorities,” Yarmuth tells AP. “But everybody ultimately has to vote for whatever comes up, or we get nothing.”