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Manchin and Sinema meet with Biden over reconciliation bill concerns

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Moderate Democrats Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema held separate meetings with President Biden at the White House Tuesday, as the White House and most Democrats push an up-to $3.5 trillion bill to expand the social safety net. 

Sinema and Manchin, key votes in the 50-50 Senate, insist the reconciliation bill is too large. Progressives in the House say they won’t vote for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that passed with bipartisan support in the Senate without the much larger bill, which would have to pass the Senate through a process called reconciliation since it currently has no Republican support.

Sinema, of Arizona, declined to answer questions about her meeting with the president upon her return to Capitol Hill. She has said little publicly about what she won’t vote for if it’s in the final reconciliation bill, other than balking at the massive price tag. Sinema is scheduled to hold a fundraiser Tuesday with business lobbying groups that oppose the reconciliation bill, according to the New York Times. 

“I will leave it to them to convey where they are comfortable in terms of topline numbers, but the president felt it was constructive, felt they moved the ball forward, felt there was agreement that we’re at a pivotal moment,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said after the president’s meeting with Sinema but before the meeting with her West Virginia colleague concluded. 

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Manchin gave few details after his meeting with the president, saying it lasted maybe 60 or 90 minutes.

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“We’re still dealing in good faith,” Manchin said of the various meetings he’s had over the reconciliation bill. 

Manchin has expressed concerns with some of the climate provisions in the proposal as well as expanding Medicare, citing solvency issues.  

“The people that are getting Medicare now just want to make sure they’re going to get it, they’re not going to have their services cut by 2026, when it goes insolvent, that’s the thing they’re concerned about,” he told reporters earlier this month. 

He also doesn’t support a program that would pay energy providers to move toward clean energy, saying the businesses are already making that shift on their own. 

“The transition is happening,” Manchin said on CNN earlier this month. “Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing. It makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”

Still, Manchin has said little publicly about his clear red lines, other than the bill shouldn’t be anywhere near $3.5 trillion. 

Manchin authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month protesting spending trillions of dollars, citing concerns over inflation and burdening future generations. 

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“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” Manchin wrote in the Journal. 

— CBS News’ Alan He contributed to this report.

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