Manchin says framework 'should' be possible this week


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Monday that he believed Democrats "should" be able to get a deal on a framework agreement for President Biden's social spending bill this week.

"Having it finished with all the t's and the i's and everything you know crossed and dotted that will be difficult from the Senate side because we have an awful lot of text to go through, but as far as conceptually we should, I really believe," Manchin told reporters on Monday.

Manchin added that Democrats "should be" able to reach a deal on a framework this week, adding that "it really should be" finished.

Manchin's comments come after he met on Sunday with Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in Delaware as Democratic leadership and the White House race to lock down a deal in a matter of days.

Biden wants a framework agreement worked out before he goes to a climate summit in Scotland, telling lawmakers last week that he wants to be able to tout it as an accomplishment.

Democrats initially passed a budget resolution earlier this year that would let them pass a bill of up to $3.5 trillion without GOP support. But Democrats are dramatically scaling down the size of the legislation as they try to figure out a way to win over all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus and nearly every House Democrat.

Manchin said that his top-line figure was still at $1.5 trillion but that talks are ongoing.

"We're all working in good faith. I've been talking to everybody as you know. I think we've got a good understanding of each other better than we ever have," he said.

Even as Manchin predicted that Democrats should be able to come to a deal on the broad outlines this week, he raised concerns about several key provisions on Monday that are considered key priorities for many of his Democratic colleagues.

"I'm not going to talk about what's in and what's out right now because there's an awful lot of moving parts. But there's a lot of concerns we have on a lot of different things," Manchin said.

Manchin said he wasn't yet on board with a plan to expand Medicare to cover vision, hearing and dental.

"We have a moral obligation to provide for those who have incapacity ... everyone else should be able to help and chip in, so that's my mind set," Manchin said.

Pressed again on expanding Medicare to cover the new benefits, Manchin added that "it's not fiscally responsible ... I want to make sure we shore up everything."

Biden previously acknowledged that it is a "reach" to get the Medicare expansion into the spending bill but that Democrats were discussing a voucher to help cover some dental costs.

Manchin's stance puts him at odds with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who drew a red line over the weekend against removing Medicare expansion.

“The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday.

Manchin, on Monday, also signaled concern with a plan pushed for by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and other Democrats to extend Medicaid in GOP and swing states that previously didn't expand under ObamaCare.

Manchin, whose home state voluntarily expanded, indicated that he wanted more information on the plan but appeared concerned that, as envisioned, it would be unfair to states that had expanded.

"I'm trying to understand that better. ... The problem that I have with that one right now is we're paying 90-10," Manchin said, referring to the federal government matching 90 percent of the costs under Medicaid expansion.

"For states that held out to be rewarded 100 percent, that's not fair," he added.

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