Joe Manchin Says He Won’t Go Higher Than $1.5 Trillion

30 Sep 2021

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BUCK: Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia coming out and, man, you will be able to bathe in some leftist tears when you hear this one: 1.5 trillion, Manchin says, is the price tag he would go for on the reconciliation bill. That’s $2 trillion less than what Democrats have been talking about now for weeks.

Let’s just be very clear. That’s the whole thing on the reconciliation bill. That’s the all-in price tag he says he’ll go for, 1.5 trillion. And remember, this is through reconciliation. So they can’t lose a vote… They can’t lose Manchin on this one. There’s nothing they can do other than try to force this guy to change his tune.

He just was out on the steps of the Capitol. It was pretty fascinating. Clay pointed out in the break, Clay says, it was amazing. All the journalists were like, “Wait a second, sir! What do you mean? What do you mean? I’m an objective journalist and I’m holding back tears because you’re gonna spend less money and raise taxes less too.” Amazing.

CLAY: Buck, here’s a couple other little nuggets that are dropping. This is wild. On July 28th of 2021, Joe Manchin told Senator Schumer that his top-line cost was 1.5 trillion and had Chuck Schumer sign in writing what he was willing to vote for. Have you seen this yet? This just now ricocheting through Twitter.

So Schumer has not been willing to say publicly for months… I mean, if this document which is ricocheting through and looks to be 100% accurate, July 28, 2021, according to this, Manchin said, “We can begin the debate on the reconciliation bill no earlier than October 1st. Funds for the new legislation can’t be disbursed until all funding for the covid legislation and ARP has been spent.

“Any revenue exceeding $1.5 trillion goes to deficit reduction.” He says that he would support — this is what Manchin has said so far — “a corporate tax rate of 25%.” What’s it at right now, Buck? Twenty-one percent, I think, is the rate?

BUCK: Yes. That sounds right.

CLAY: I think it’s 21%. He’d raise the top rate on ordinary income to 39.6% and raise the capital gains rate to 28%, all-in. These are things that — and it says Senator Manchin “does not guarantee he will vote for the final reconciliation legislation if it exceeds the conditions outlined in this agreement.”

BUCK: So they’ve known.

CLAY: Yes.

BUCK: Let’s unpack for a second the politics around this. That would mean Schumer and, I’m assuming Pelosi and the rest of them, knew at some level. Certainly Democrat leadership had to know that he had a price tag all along. So they’ve been making this promise to the White House.

Now, there are a couple of ways that this could be playing out, right? They put up the huge price tag so that they actually create a pressure. Maybe they thought they could get Manchin to move on this when this became “so popular.” You never want to be the real estate broker who says, “I got you a million-dollar offer on your house,” and then have to say, “Actually, it’s a half a million dollars,” right?

So maybe they thought that by pushing it publicly, the overshooting here would pressure Manchin? The other option, Clay — I don’t know which one you think is more likely based on this document — would be the Democrats wanted to just go forward and talk about what their vision is, and now they’re gonna have to tell the left-wing base that’s…

By the way, yesterday there were people that were making the case, “Spend whatever amount of money; it doesn’t matter.” That’s what we’ve actually gone to. So-called left-wing intellectuals will say, “Three trillion, eight trillion. Spend whatever you want as long as it’s for a cause we like.” They’re going to be disappointed, but at least it looks like you tried. What do you think? Why would they do this?

CLAY: It’s such a great question. I think it’s because they were trying to get the infrastructure bill passed before this information came out. And so they were trying to hide the ball on the liberal… This could provoke a Democratic civil war, Buck, inside of the party because if I’m… Let’s kind of take a step back. It’s a great question you’re asking.

If I am a liberal member of the Democratic caucus, if I am the AOC brigade — The Squad — in the House, and you have been trying to get me to vote for this infrastructure bill while saying, “Hey, we feel really good about the 3.5 trillion on the budget,” and in reality since July you’ve signed on to knowing that Joe Manchin will only agree to 1.5, they might have been…

Here’s what I think happened. I think they told Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia, “Don’t say anything publicly about your 1.5 trillion, the fact that you’re shaving two trillion off,” right? “Don’t say anything at all about that, because we want to get the infrastructure bill passed. We’ll get the infrastructure bill passed and then you can go public with this position.”

I wonder on some level whether Manchin got frustrated because people kept ripping him, saying, ‘Why won’t he give us a bottom line number? Why won’t he say what he’s actually in favor of?” And finally he just got fed up and he said, “Hey, let’s release this thing that we got signed back in July,” ’cause remember, he had to sign on to begin the budget reconciliation process on 3/5.

So it looks to me as if he’s been as upfront as possible, Schumer’s been hiding the ball, and now I wonder. With all this drama, what’s gonna happen with the infrastructure bill, ’cause all The Squad members may roll out and say, “We’re not supporting this. We’re not getting what we wanted on the Green New Deal and everything else in the budget.”

BUCK: This is kind of the Afghan withdrawal version of budget reconciliation from the Democrats.

CLAY: (laughing) Great analogy.

BUCK: Everyone’s looking and saying, “Wow. This whole thing is coming apart.” With all of that said, it’s also worth noting here that $1.5 trillion —

CLAY: Still a lot of money.

BUCK: — is a lot of money, everybody! As I was just saying yesterday on this show, Clay, the Tea Party movement was spurred by a trillion. It was actually less. I think it was 900 billion in spending by the Obama administration as part of their so-called stimulus, right? Remember all that? That’s what — and a lot of that was extension of unemployment benefits and welfare spending and things of that nature — social welfare spending, they call it, right?

A lot of it. There was the shovel-ready jobs stuff that weren’t actually shovel-ready. We all remember that. But it’s still a lot of money. There’s also is some level maybe this a motte-and-bailey situation. People are familiar with the this a motte-and-bailey argument, right, where you make a reference to the medieval fortification —

CLAY: I don’t think most people are familiar with that reference.

BUCK: Let me explain a little bit. So the modern —

CLAY: I’m not familiar with it.

BUCK: It’s like you go really far with the argument and you know you won’t be able to defend that but then the keep of the castle so to speak the center of it you say, “Well, now I’m being reasonable.” So you go to someone, you say, “Hey, Clay. I’ll offer you five times what your house actually costs,” right? And you go —

CLAY: Yes.

BUCK: Anyway, the point being, you make the argument seem —

CLAY: You give yourself space to look reasonable.

BUCK: That’s right. The secondary argument becomes the reasonable argument, even though the first argument you put out there was absurd. You say want 3.5 trillion, you get everybody used to that, and then you back down. “Oh, the Democrats are so upset about the $1.5 trillion.” Clay, it’s not like six trillion during covid. That’s also a possibility here. Maybe it’s all… Yeah, The Squad? The Squad’s upset that we’re not all commies. We can’t take them that seriously.

CLAY: Will they actually — and this is the question. We’re gonna continue to talk about this and for a lot of people I think at the top of the second hour we need to kind of reset what’s actually at stake here, ’cause it’s gotten so confusing. We’ll play you some cuts from Joe Manchin when we come back to close out the hour. This is breaking news as the Biden legislative policies are really kind of going to be determined, I think, in the next 24 hours as we go forward.

BUCK: There’s no chance they don’t pass anything right now, I think. That just looks too catastrophic. So they’re gonna have to… If they’re firm on the price tag, I think they gotta take the lower price tag. I mean, they have to.

CLAY: See, that’s why I think the question is, is the pride of The Squad…? Do they feel like they were lied to by Pelosi and Schumer, if this signed agreement is in place there? This is… I love all this.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

CLAY: We are reacting to major breaking news about the Biden administration, the Bernie budget, however you want to classify it. Joe Manchin finally seems like he’s gotten fed up and he went public with the fact that he would not be supporting the 3.5 trillion and had told Democratic leadership that he would not go above the 1.5 trillion in this new bill, and I want to play you the clips of Joe Manchin just now talking with the media outside the Capitol Building.

Here is cut 37 as he discusses his position.

MANCHIN: We have to take all this in consideration. We have a lot of good things we can do. And here’s the thing. My goodness. You have infrastructure bill, you’ve got this bill we have right now, and we have a reconciliation bill. I’m willing to sit down and work through that 1.5 to get our priorities in, and they can come back and do later, and they can run on the rest of it later. I think there’s many ways to get to where they want to, just not everything at one time.

CLAY: So he’s basically saying, “Hey, make it an issue in 2022 if you think you can get to 3.5 trillion. He also said we only have 50 votes which is why they’re moving through in the budget reconciliation process. By the way, worth mentioning, Buck: We still haven’t heard who Kyrsten Sinema’s demands are, because she also has been very outspoken in not supporting the three five, but we haven’t heard what she has demanded.

BUCK: Isn’t it amazing that the way the psychology of the Democrats has worked up to this point — the way the Democrat Party has presented this — it’s as though they have a mandate to spend $3.5 trillion in addition to the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, by the way. Even just breaking up these two things — and this is a little bit of what is, I think, intentional here.

Because you say, “Wait a second. Is it 1.5 trillion inclusive of infrastructure?” No, no. There’s the $1.5 trillion infrastructure package and now he’s saying there’s a $1.5 trillion cap on the reconciliation budget all in. And people are saying, “Well, hold on a second. What’s really going on here?” Clay, $3.5 trillion plus a trillion dollars is bonkers.

(laughing) That’s what Democrats have been talking about like it’s normal for weeks and weeks now. The $1.5 trillion on anything of additional spending is a lot of money. So this is where you start to realize, hold on. Our whole for a lot of people of reference here, the Overton window of this discussion is expanded beyond what anybody should think is rational or normal, right? This is fiscal sanity? “Oh, it’s only gonna be a $1.5 trillion reconciliation bill.”

CLAY: Well, the big — and again, we need to lay all this out. The big question here now is timing. Because the closer you get to 2022, the more difficult it is to actually push anything through. And, again, what is the relationship going to be between the liberal wing of the Democratic Party…? I think we’re probably gonna hear them speak out now that Joe Manchin has officially said: Hey, I’m only good for one-five.

And, Buck, part of me wonders this: Does Joe Manchin partly hope that nothing happens? ‘Cause he’s called for “a strategic pause.” Is he in some way speaking out now to potentially blow up all of this and get to go back to the drawing board and essentially be the most powerful politician in the country right now? Let’s be clear about something.

Joe Manchin right now is far more powerful than Joe Biden is. Just think about this: Joe Manchin controls the purse strings of the entire United States government right now — he and Kyrsten Sinema — because we’re in a deadlocked 50-50 Senate. Buck, the ultimate trump card Joe Manchin has is not only repudiating the 3.5; he’s gonna be up for reelection in West Virginia in 2024.

He’s a Democrat in the state that Donald Trump won more votes percentage wise than anywhere in the country. What if Joe Manchin said, “Hey, I might flip to be a Republican?” and then control of the Senate goes back to the Republicans, and so Democrats don’t have a strong hand at all here to play.

BUCK: There’s also reporting that Manchin will only go forward with this as well after the Hyde Amendment is part of the support for this. It’s a legislative provision that bars the use of federal funds for abortion.

CLAY: That’s a big deal, too.

BUCK: That’s gonna be a big deal going into this year where it looks like abortion and Roe, Roe v. Wade, are gonna get a real look by the Supreme Court for the first time in decades. So it’s amazing to see. I mean, Joe Manchin — this is the quote from him. He said, “I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape, manner, or form.

“So,” this is a great line, “If progressives want a bigger reconciliation bill, elect more liberals.” He’s straight up saying, “This is not me. It’s not what I’m about, not gonna do it.” So, Clay, I don’t see a way where he can back off of this — and why would he, really? You’ve got 1.5 trillion in the reconciliation bill that he’s now saying he’s go forward with and that Democrats are going to act like this is some kind of great betrayal, when they don’t have to a mandate.

This is as narrowly divided a Congress as you can basically conjure: 50-50 in the Senate, a handful in the House. Why, given that there’s such a lack of…? I mean, they keep saying it’s popular. They’ll use the term, “These are popular ideas.” Well, then why can’t it get through? Why aren’t Republicans on board? If it’s popular, Republicans like getting votes too.

They’re just… This is narrative creation. This is… Look, folks, we’ll break all this down for you the gong here in a minute. By the way, if you’ve got an idea about the strategy here you think Manchin’s deploying or what the Democrats were doing, we’d love to hear from you ’cause this just turned the whole —

CLAY: He cannonballed into the pool, Buck.

BUCK: Oh, yeah! Splashed a whole lot of Democrats.

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