Baltimore Sun

Dems find compromise after clash

Manchin: Reform energy permitting, or ‘there is no bill’

- By Emily Cochrane

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who had been the chief Democratic holdout on a climate, health, energy and tax increase package that is the backbone of his party’s agenda, said Thursday that he had relented and agreed to sign on after concluding that it would help combat inflation, as top Democrats toiled to rally support to quickly pass the measure.

President Joe Biden declared his support Thursday for the “historic” inflation-fighting agreement, saying the $739 billion bill, which had long eluded the White House and seemed all but lost, will be a “godsend” for American families.

He acknowledg­ed the final product was a compromise, but was upbeat that it would win support in Congress.

“My plea is: Put politics aside. Get it done,” Biden said. “We should pass this.”

Biden received more good news for his agenda Thursday when the House passed a $280 billion package to boost the semiconduc­tor industry and scientific research in a bid to create more high-tech jobs in the United States and help it better compete with internatio­nal rivals, namely China.

The House approved the bill by a sold 243-187 margin, sending the measure to Biden to be signed into law and providing the White House with a major domestic policy victory. Twenty-four Republican­s

voted for the legislatio­n.

As for the agreement announced late Wednesday, Manchin said the surprise compromise began taking shape only days after he and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, had a bitter break during intense negotiatio­ns on the plan, when the West Virginian informed Schumer that he could not support a package with new climate spending or tax proposals this summer amid skyrocketi­ng inflation.

“You know how our tempers get a little bit ahead of us at times,” Manchin, who is isolating after testing

positive for COVID19 this week, told reporters during a virtual news conference.

Schumer, he said, had “turned the dogs loose” on him two weeks ago after he said he could not commit to the plan. But four days later, the two patched up their split and sent their staffs back to the negotiatin­g table to find a version both could accept.

The critical concession­s that ultimately won Manchin’s support included jettisonin­g billions of dollars’ worth of tax increases he opposed and winning a commitment from Biden and Democratic leaders to

enact legislatio­n to streamline the permitting of energy infrastruc­ture. That could ease the way for a shale gas pipeline project in West Virginia in which Manchin has taken a personal interest.

“I’m saying straight to you, without permitting reforms, without the ability for America to do what it does best — produce — there is no bill,” he said Thursday morning, speaking to Hoppy Kercheval, a West Virginia radio host. “That is totally agreed upon and understood.”

In a private caucus meeting Thursday morning, Schumer began laying the groundwork for what promises to be an arduous process

of steering the compromise through the evenly divided Senate, made more difficult by the chamber’s arcane rules, Democrats’ bare-minimum majority and a coronaviru­s surge among senators.

He counseled Democratic senators that they had the opportunit­y to deliver on their long-standing ambitions to combat the threat of climate change and allow Medicare, for the first time, to negotiate the prices of prescripti­on drugs, pushing down costs for patients.

“It will require us to stick together and work long days and nights for the next 10 days,” Schumer told his colleagues, according to a Democrat in the room, who disclosed details of the private meeting on the condition of anonymity.

Should the compromise hold and survive considerat­ion by the Senate and the House, it would allow Democrats to enact major legislatio­n weeks before the midterm congressio­nal elections to address health care costs, climate change and inflation — all while fulfilling long-standing promises to tax the rich and reduce the deficit.

But the fate of the measure remained on shaky ground.

It was not clear whether it would have the unanimous support among Democrats needed to pass.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another holdout on her party’s domestic policy package, skipped the Democratic caucus meeting Thursday and would not comment on the bill or indicate whether she planned to support it.

“She’s reviewing text and will need to review what comes out of the parliament­arian process,” a spokespers­on said.

Sinema has in the past opposed one element of the agreement: a proposal to change a preferenti­al tax treatment for income earned by venture capitalist­s.

Even if it can win passage in the Senate, the measure would also need to pass the House, where Democrats can spare only a few votes given likely unanimous Republican opposition.

Democratic leaders aimed to hold votes on the legislatio­n in the Senate as early as next week, before the chamber is scheduled to leave for the annual August recess.

 ?? HAIYUN JIANG/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., holds an online news conference Thursday in Washington after a positive test for COVID-19. Manchin said his objections to the proposed bill concerning inflation were allayed by his advisors.
HAIYUN JIANG/THE NEW YORK TIMES Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., holds an online news conference Thursday in Washington after a positive test for COVID-19. Manchin said his objections to the proposed bill concerning inflation were allayed by his advisors.
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