President Joe Biden seemed to bow Friday to Sen. Joe Manchin’s demand for a slimmed-down economic package, telling Democrats to quickly push the measure through Congress so families could “sleep easier” and enjoy the healthcare savings it proposes.
Biden’s statement came hours after Manchin, the West Virginian who is one of Congress’ more conservative Democrats, said that if party leaders wanted to pass a measure before next month’s recess, it should be limited to provisions curbing prescription drug prices, extending subsidies for people buying health insurance and reducing the federal deficit.
“Families all over the nation will sleep easier if Congress takes this action,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. “The Senate should move forward, pass it before the August recess and get it to my desk so I can sign it.”
He added, “This will not only lower the cost of prescription drugs and healthcare for families, it will reduce the deficit and help fight inflation.”
Manchin, whose vote is a necessity for Democrats to succeed, had also said that if party leaders want to pursue a broader measure aimed at curbing climate change and raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, they should wait until later this summer. He argued that would allow time to see what happens to inflation and interest rates this month, a delay that would also push consideration of the legislation until the weeks just before the November elections and jeopardize its fate.
In his statement, Biden said action on climate and clean energy “remains more urgent than ever” but also acknowledged a willingness to accept, for now, delays in congressional action.
“If the Senate will not move to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to meet this moment,” he said. His moves would produce jobs, shield the country against fuel price hikes and protect the climate, he said, adding, “I will not back down: the opportunity to create jobs and build a clean energy future is too important to relent.”
Democrats want to reach an agreement and push it through Congress before lawmakers begin an August recess.
Delaying action until after the break would leave Democrats facing a dangerously ticking clock. Special budget powers expire Oct. 1 that would let them push the legislation through the 50-50 Senate over solid GOP opposition with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
That would pose a risk that any Democratic absences because of COVID-19 or any other reason would leave them lacking the votes they need. It would also push congressional action until just weeks before the November elections, when any votes can be quickly spun into a damaging campaign attack ad.