Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said on Sunday that the $1.5 trillion overall number proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for Democrats’ reconciliation bill is too low for the party to pass its major priorities, the latest in ongoing negotiations over the sweeping Build Back Better legislation.
The House Progressive Caucus chair spoke with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where she talked about the past week of congressional sparring over the legislation from President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders that was proposed to allocate about $3.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
The bill would fund many of the party’s priorities, including subsidies for electric vehicles, programs for young children and the elderly, and expansions of health insurance coverage. Progressives originally asked for $6 trillion, but negotiated down to $3.5 trillion to gain more votes.
Because Democrats plan to use the reconciliation process to pass the bill, the Democratic caucus can pass it through the Senate with their simple majority of 50 senators plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote — but that requires all Democratic senators to be on board.
While most Democrats in Congress support the proposal, a select few conservative Democrats have publicly said the overall number is too high. Biden suggested to House Democrats on Friday they should consider a bill closer to $2 trillion, however Manchin ― who has political leverage due to the party’s slim majority in the Senate ― specifically said he would prefer the bill to shrink down to $1.5 trillion.
“Well, that’s not going to happen,” Jayapal told Bash. “Because that’s too small to get our priorities in. So, it’s going to be somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5. And I think the White House is working on that right now, because remember, what we want to deliver is child care, paid leave, climate change, housing.”
The congresswoman would not say whether she would support the $2.1 trillion number Biden floated, stressing that Democrats are focusing less on the package’s top-line number and more on which priorities must be included and which can be eliminated.
“Our idea now is to look at how you make [priorities] funded for a little bit of a shorter time. And we’re also going through some of the smaller things that were in there just to see, what are those things and do they need to be in there as well?” she said. “That right there will probably cut out a decent amount, small things that were in there or things that we might be able to fund through an appropriations process.”
When asked if there are any non-negotiable priorities for Democrats that must be in the package for a 10-year period, Jayapal mentioned clean electricity standards “because it takes time to cut carbon emissions.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, said Sunday that $2 trillion would not be enough, adding that $3.5 trillion should be the minimum for combating the climate crisis and transforming the country’s energy system away from fossil fuels but that “I accept that there’s gonna have to be give and take.”
“What the president has said is that there’s going to have to be some give and take, and I think that’s right,” the Senate Budget Committee chair told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week.” “What the president is saying is that what we are trying to do is for the working families of this country, for the children, for the elderly, we’re trying to pass the most consequential piece of legislation since the Great Depression, and he’s right, you know?”
Manchin has said that his reasoning for the lower overall number is because he wants “to make sure we pay for it” and does “not want to add more debt on.” Sanders said Sunday that he agrees with the West Virginia senator in wanting the bill to be paid for.
“In fact, that is exactly what we are going to do, and if it’s $3.5 trillion, we can pay for it because as everybody knows, we got some of the wealthiest people in this country who in a given year don’t pay a penny in federal income tax. Large corporations don’t pay a nickel in federal income tax,” Sanders said.
“So if Manchin wants to pay for it, I’m there. Let’s do it. And by the way, you could pay for it at $3.5 trillion, you could pay for it at $6 trillion. We have massive income and wealth inequality in this country.”