Dem say Manchin blocks energy, tax provisions in big bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Manchin said he would oppose an economic measure he was negotiating with Democratic leaders if it included climate or energy provisions or higher taxes for the wealthy and businesses, a Democrat briefed on the conversations said Thursday. a blow to one of the party’s main priorities for the election year.

The official said Manchin, who derailed his party’s broader and broader social and environmental package last December, told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday that he would not support further action. than if it were limited to reducing the prices of pharmaceutical products and extending federal subsidies for the purchase of health coverage.

Manchin’s demands leave the future of the measure uncertain, seemingly dashing the hopes of President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders for a more sweeping package they could push through Congress by August. This would have allowed them to show Democratic voters that they were addressing a range of party priorities like tackling climate change and taxing the rich and contrast with Republicans, who are expected to oppose legislation at the unanimity.

Manchin spokesman Sam Runyon issued a statement reiterating the senator’s assertions that he did not want any measures that would worsen the consumer cost of living. The government announced this week that inflation last month reached an annual level of 9.1%, the highest figure in four decades.

“Political headlines are meaningless to the millions of Americans struggling to afford groceries and gas as inflation soars to 9.1%,” Runyon said. “Senator Manchin believes it is time for leaders to put aside political agendas, reassess and adapt to the economic realities facing the country to avoid taking actions that fuel the fire of inflation. .”

Manchin signaled unease with negotiations on Wednesday, saying the latest inflation figures left him feeling “more cautious than I’ve ever felt” about agreeing to a package that could fuel further increases of inflation.

The official who described the talks was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats hoped to pass a roughly $1 trillion version of the $2 trillion bill that Manchin killed in December and present it as an achievement before the November election. Republicans, who hope to win the House and Senate in the fall vote, say the new measure would worsen inflation by increasing spending and raising taxes.

Manchin, one of the most centrist Democrats in Congress, has tremendous leverage, much to the dismay of many in his party. Using special budget rules, Democrats can ram a package through the Senate 50-50 if they are solidly united, with Vice President Kamala Harris’s deciding vote.

They also control the House, albeit tightly. Recent grumbling from some moderates about raising taxes — an easy target for Republicans on the campaign trail — has raised questions about the fate of tax-raising proposals in this chamber.

Top Democrats wanted to reach a deal and approve the measure before Congress entered its August recess. Progress on major legislation is much more difficult in the fall of election years, when every vote can become the target of a deluge of attack ads in the countryside.

But containing prescription drug costs and expanding subsidies for people who buy health insurance under former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law are also Democratic priorities. Manchin’s stance puts his party in the position of having to decide whether to reluctantly declare victory by only tackling some of its health care goals, instead of demanding more but potentially find nothing.

White House spokesman Nick Conger declined to comment on Manchin’s position.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the Democrats’ legislation “our last chance to prevent the most catastrophic and costly effects of climate change.” But he said the party needed to “recover as much of this package as possible. The phrase that failure is not an option is overused, but failure really isn’t an option here.

“It seems odd that Senator Manchin chose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed mankind. But we can’t throw in the towel on the planet,” said John Podesta, founder of the liberal Center for American Progress, who said Biden should use his executive powers to take climate action.

“It’s outrageous that Manchin and the Republican Party killed this Congress’ climate legislation,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity. He said Biden should instead use executive powers to block new fossil fuel projects and prevent new oil and gas drilling.

In talks with Schumer, DN.Y., that spanned months, Manchin had previously voiced support for energy and climate language and increased levies on high earners and big businesses.

Just this week, two Democratic aides said negotiators plan to include a proposal to extend Medicare solvency for another three years by applying an existing 3.8% tax on high earners to many people. who derive income from business entities with tax advantages called “pass through.” Asked about this, Runyon said Manchin has always supported maintaining Medicare solvent and lowering pharmaceutical costs.

According to the official, Schumer had told Manchin during their talks that he would support the use of half of the overall deficit reduction measure, a Manchin request.

Schumer also said he would support setting aside $375 billion for climate and energy provisions, the official said. He also told Manchin he would support provisions to help domestic energy drilling — West Virginia is a strong supporter of domestic coal and oil production — and would not include tax credits for electric vehicles, which Manchin had largely opposed.

The official said even so, the resulting measure would have included clean energy tax credits and reduced carbon emissions by nearly 40% by 2030, according to Democratic estimates.

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AP reporter Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

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