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Dem says Manchin blocks energy, tax provisions in big bill

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin said he would oppose an economic measure he is negotiating with Democratic leaders if it includes climate or energy regulations or higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, a Democrat briefed on the talks said late Thursday. dealing a stunning blow to one of the party’s top priorities in an election year.

The official said Manchin, who derailed his party’s larger and more sweeping social and environmental package last December, told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday that he would support a new measure only if it was limited to curbing on drug prices and expanding federal subsidies to purchase health coverage.

Manchin’s demands leave the future of the measure unclear, appearing to dash the hopes of President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders for a more sweeping package they could push through Congress by August. That would allow them to show Democratic voters that they are addressing a range of party priorities such as curbing climate change and taxing the wealthy, and would contrast with Republicans who are expected to unanimously oppose the legislation.

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Manchin’s spokesman, Sam Runyon, issued a statement that reiterated the senator’s claims that he does not want any measures that appear to worsen the consumer cost of living. The government said this week that inflation last month hit an annualized 9.1 percent, the highest in four decades.

“Political headlines mean nothing to the millions of Americans struggling to afford groceries and gas as inflation soars to 9.1 percent,” Runyon said. “Senator Manchin believes it is time for leaders to put political agendas aside, reassess and adjust to the economic realities facing the country to avoid taking steps that add fuel to the fire of inflation.”

Manchin signaled concern about Wednesday’s talks, saying the latest inflation data made him feel “more cautious than ever” about agreeing to a package that could fuel further inflation.

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

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

Manchin, one of the more centrist Democrats in Congress, wields enormous influence, much to the dismay of many in his own party. Using special budget rules, Democrats can push a package through the Senate 50-50 if they are solidly united, along with the deciding vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

They also control the House, albeit narrowly. The recent outcry from some moderates there about raising taxes — an easy target for Republicans during the campaign season — has raised questions about the fate of tax hike proposals in that chamber.

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Top Democrats wanted to reach an agreement and approve the measure before Congress goes on recess in August. Progress on major pieces of legislation is much more difficult in the fall of election years, when every vote can become the target of a barrage of campaign attack ads.

However, curbing prescription drug costs and expanding subsidies for people who buy health insurance under former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law are also top priorities for Democrats. Manchin’s position puts his party in a position to decide whether it should begrudgingly declare victory by targeting only some of its health care goals, rather than demanding more but potentially ending up with 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 “salvage as much of this package as possible. The expression that failure is not an option is overused, but failure really is not an option here.”

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“It seems odd that Senator Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one person who single-handedly doomed humanity. 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 GOP have rejected climate legislation this Congress,” said Brett Hartle, 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, D-N.Y., that have spanned months, Manchin has previously voiced support for energy and climate language and for raising taxes on high-income earners and big companies.

Just this week, two Democratic aides said negotiators plan to include a proposal to extend Medicare’s solvency for another three years by applying an existing 3.8 percent tax on high-income earners to many income earners from tax-exempt business entities called “pass-throughs.” Asked about that, Runyon said Manchin has always supported keeping Medicare solvent and reducing pharmaceutical costs.

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According to the official, Schumer told Manchin during their conversations that he would support using half of the overall deficit reduction measure, a request by Manchin.

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

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

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AP reporter Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

Dem says Manchin blocks energy, tax provisions in big bill

Source link Dem says Manchin blocks energy, tax provisions in big bill

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