Manchin: Talks with Schumer on spending plan slowed by inflation concerns

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Sen. Joe Manchin said that negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the ​$739 billion spending bill went on for months because of concerns that the legislation would further stoke already high inflation rates. 

The moderate West Virginia Democrat, whose opposition to President Biden’s $2 trillion Build Back Better Act sunk the measure in December, said he started working with Schumer on the pared down package in the spring – part of a process that was occasionally interrupted by rising inflation rates.  

“On this one here, we started in April and kept working, and working, and working and back and forth. And all of a sudden, inflation went from six, to 8.1, to 9.1 and I said, ‘Hey. Chuck, listen, we’d better wait and let’s see what’s coming in July, numbers coming in August before we do anything more,’” Manchin said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in an interview that aired Sunday.

“And that’s when Chuck got upset with me, and I understand that. And he says, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ and anything. I said, ‘No, Chuck.’ I said, ‘I’m just being very cautious. I’m not going to be responsible for inflaming the inflation rates. I’m just not going to do it,’” Manchin, a crucial swing vote in the 50-50 Senate said. 

He said as tensions cooled, he and Schumer went back to the drawing board to scale it down even more.

Gas price marquee
Record-high gas prices have been seen across the country in 2022.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Food prices have been on the rise for the past few months.
Food prices have been on the rise for the past few months.
Corbis via Getty Images

“But the bottom line was we reduced it and scrubbed it clear down to 739. Nothing inflammatory in that piece of legislation​,” Manchin said. 

Manchin, who revealed that Biden was cut out of the talks on the spending measure, announced the agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act with Schumer last Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by .75% in an effort to cool inflation.

The following day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the economy contracted by 0.9% in the second quarter after falling 1.6% in the first quarter – meeting the criteria for a recession. 

Democrats will try to pass the spending plan, which faces intense Republican opposition in the House and Senate, through reconciliation – a legislative tactic that will allow them to bypass the usual 60-vote threshold for approving legislation. 

With Manchin on board, all eyes have turned to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to see if she will cast the 50th vote – allowing Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie. 

Sinema, who has opposed parts of Biden’s domestic agenda, has yet to comment on the legislation. 

Asked whether Sinema will be a yes vote, Manchin called the Arizona lawmaker “a friend of mine” and said the provisions she sought are contained in the bill.

“She has a tremendous, tremendous input in this piece of legislation. These are things that everyone has worked on over the last eight months or more. And she basically insisted that there are no tax increases. We’ve done that. She was very, very adamant about that, and I support and I agree with her,” Manchin said.

“She was also very instrumental in making sure that we had drug prices that Medicare could compete on certain drugs to bring it down so that there wouldn’t be an impact on individuals, on Medicare across. She’s done all this,” he said. … “And I would like to think she would be favorable towards it, that I respect her decision. She’ll make her own decision based on the contents.”

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