Manchin, Sanders to seek deal on Biden agenda

Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a key figure in the Democratic negotiations over a major human infrastructure spending package, told Democratic colleagues at lunch Tuesday that he will work with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reach a deal by week’s end, according to sources familiar with the lunch.

Manchin said he thought a general agreement would be possible by Friday, sounding a more optimistic tone behind closed doors than he did when asked by reporters earlier in the week about meeting an Oct. 31 deadline for passing legislation.

“Universally there was a desire to get this done by the end of this week,” said a Democratic senator who participated in the meeting.

Manchin told colleagues he would continue to talk with Sanders this week and that he would try to reach an agreement on a general framework for the bill that Democrats plan to pass on a party-line vote under budget reconciliation, two sources familiar with the meeting confirmed.

Another person familiar with the meeting said the talks will take place between Manchin, Sanders and centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), with Schumer acting as an emissary between Sanders and his centrist colleagues.

The source described the negotiation as a “shuttle diplomacy” with Schumer coordinating the talks.

“There’s broad consensus throughout the caucus about getting something by the end of the week,” the source said, characterizing the discussion at the lunch about reaching a deal by Friday.

The source added that Senate Democrats “from left to right” voiced support for agreeing on a framework in the next few days.

Schumer later described the discussion at the caucus lunch as "spirited" and "passionate" and confirmed that Manchin is on board with trying to get a deal by week’s end.

“We had a very spirited discussion at our lunch. Passionate, strong and there was universal, universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement, and we've got to get it done and want to get it done this week,” he said.

The Democratic leader said there would be multiple meetings with different players to reach a deal on a framework.

“There’s lots of meetings going on,” Schumer said. “There’ll be all kinds of meetings, together and separately to get this done, but we’re really — the pace has picked up. The desire to get it done is strong.”

Sanders and Manchin met for the first time this week Monday night after a vote on a circuit court judge.

The sit-down came after Sanders and Manchin exchanged salvos over the stalemated budget reconciliation talks during the October recess.

Sanders published an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail last week in which he argued that giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower prescription drugs and expanding Medicare benefits — something that Manchin has expressed opposition to — would help West Virginians.

"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote 'yes.' We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin," Sanders wrote in a jab at his colleague.

Asked on Tuesday about recent skirmishing between Sanders and Manchin, Schumer said: “What I’ve told our caucus is everyone is going to be disappointed in certain things but everyone’s going to be glad about certain things.” 

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