San Francisco Chronicle

Key Democrat balks at price of Biden’s budget agenda

- By Hope Yen Hope Yen is an Associated Press writer.

WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator vital to the fate of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan for social and environmen­tal spending said Sunday he won’t support even half that amount or the ambitious timetable envisioned for passing it.

The stand by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was described as unacceptab­le by the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, who is helping craft the measure. But Democrats have no votes to spare if they want to enact Biden’s massive “Build Back Better” agenda, with the Senate split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris the tiebreaker if there is no Republican support.

With congressio­nal committees working toward the target of Wednesday set by party leaders to have the bill drafted, Manchin made clear his view, in a series of television interviews, that there was “no way” Congress would meet the late September goal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for passage.

“I cannot support $3.5 trillion,” Manchin said, citing in particular his opposition to a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and vast new social spending.

“We should be looking at everything, and we’re not. We don’t have the need to rush into this and get it done within one week because there’s some deadline we’re meeting, or someone’s going to fall through the cracks,” he said.

Pressed repeatedly about a total he could support, Manchin said, “It’s going to be $1, $1.5 (trillion).” He later suggested the range was based on a modest rise in the corporate rate to 25%, a figure he believes will keep the U.S. globally competitiv­e.

But Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is developing the budget bill, noted that he and other members of the liberal flank in Congress had initially urged an even more robust package of $6 trillion.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable to the president, to the American people, or to the overwhelmi­ng majority of the people in the Democratic caucus,” Sanders said. “I believe we’re going to all sit down and work together and come up with a $3.5 trillion reconcilia­tion bill, which deals with the enormously unmet needs of working families.”

The current blueprint proposes billions for rebuilding infrastruc­ture, tackling climate change and expanding or introducin­g a range of services, from free prekinderg­arten to dental, vision and hearing aid care for seniors.

Manchin spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week.” Sanders was on CNN and ABC.

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