House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who recently clashed with Democratic moderates over the size of the $3.5 trillion spending bill, is now risking a fight with leftists in her chamber — indicating on Wednesday that she has not ruled out a pared down bill in the face of opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin.
“This is sort of a compressed challenge because people need help right away, and we will get the job done. … I don’t know what the number will be, we are marking at $3.5 [trillion]],” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters. “We’re not going above that.”
Her comments come shortly after reports emerged that the moderate Manchin (D-WV) told White House officials and congressional leaders that he is open to a $1.5 trillion package, far lower than what progressives have advocated for, according to Axios.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and a handful of other moderate Democrats in the lower chamber have also voiced reluctance to get behind an additional $3.5 trillion in spending.
Pelosi asserted that “more than half, maybe all” of the package — which is expected to include language to tackle some of the Biden administration’s top priorities, including immigration reform, climate change and the expansion of social programs including Medicare — will be paid for, but acknowledged it will be difficult to to find areas to cut while holding the support of her entire caucus.
“We will be taking some responsibility to pay for what is in there so the cost for the future will be much lower than any $3.5,” she continued. “But we have to talk about what does it take? Where would you cut? Child care, family medical leave, paid-for universal pre-K, home health care? [It’s all] so important.”
Democratic leadership in both chambers will need to work to hold their caucuses together due to the razor-thin margins despite looking to pass the massive bill using a process that allows them to circumvent the need for GOP support in the Senate. Pelosi can lose just three votes while Schumer can’t lose any of his members for them to successfully pass the net-yet-finalized legislation.
Both Pelosi and Schumer appear to be dismissing Manchin’s calls to pause on the sweeping legislation which he laid out in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, with the New York Democrat telling reporters on Wednesday that the upper chamber is “moving full steam ahead.”
Republicans have widely blasted the bill as a Democratic power grab to address partisan priorities, with GOP-aligned groups already releasing attack ads on moderate members who supported the budget allowing Democrats to move forward with reconciliation.
A recent poll commissioned by conservative advocacy group American Action Network showed the sweeping spending bill could prove to be a liability for vulnerable Democrats, with 35 percent of respondents in seven swing districts saying they believed the spending is necessary.
Republicans have also advocated for Democrats to link raising the debt ceiling to the reconciliation bill, which Pelosi has rejected. The California Democrat dismissed accusations that Democrats are attempting to go on a spending spree, casting blame on Republicans for needing to lift the nation’s spending limit.
“During the Trump administration which amassed over $7 trillion in debt, and that’s what this debt ceiling lift is paying for, people say, ‘Oh, you just want to spend money.’ No, this is we’re paying the Trump credit card with what we would do to lift the debt ceiling” she said. “And when President Trump was president we Democrats supported lifting the debt ceiling, because it’s the responsible thing to do. I would hope that the Republicans would act in a similarly responsible way.”
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