White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday acted as if Sen. Joe Manchin’s firm “no” on President Biden’s massive social spending bill actually was a “maybe.”
Faced with a barrage of questions about the West Virginia Democrat’s opposition — which she ripped into in a statement Sunday — Biden’s chief spokesperson repeatedly fell back on the same answer, insisting vaguely that Biden would continue to “work like hell” to pass it.
Manchin effectively killed the package Sunday, saying, ”This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.” His opposition in the evenly divided Senate denies Democrats the 50 votes needed to pass it.
But Psaki said the package could still somehow be passed next month — despite Manchin on Monday morning explaining at length his decision in a radio interview.
“Clearly the next couple weeks will be important and pivotal and certainly involve high-level staff engagements, involve the president, and his engagements directly with members,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.
“And we have been engaged with leadership, with members of the Senate and their staff, over the course of the last 24 hours to talk about the path forward.”
CNN reporter Phil Mattingly asked Psaki about the “palpable anger” in her White House statement that slammed Manchin on Sunday after the centrist’s comments on Fox News, blocking the bill.
“Sen. Manchin had a strong statement yesterday and we had a strong statement as well. And we’re ready to move forward and get this done and work like hell to do that — with Sen. Manchin, with members of the Democratic caucus across the Democratic Party, and that’s our focus moving forward. But that was the basis of our calculus yesterday,” Psaki said.
But when pressed on what the path forward would be, Psaki said only, “I think you will hear from [Biden] on how we’re gonna get the agenda done.”
At the briefing, CBS News reporter Ed O’Keefe also asked Psaki for Biden’s “message to progressives” who lost leverage in the House by voting for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, allowing it to pass and become law.
Psaki said that “his message would be that we need to work together to get this done and he’s going to work like hell to get it done. And that would be his message and January is an opportunity to do exactly that.”
Manchin had said that he was concerned about the effects of the bill on inflation.
“Today inflation is the biggest threat, I think, we have right now… We sent out $5.4 trillion to try to help people [during the COVID-19 pandemic…. We are making more of a crisis on the individual person today because of high costs and inflation,” Manchin said.
The senator also slammed Biden’s White House negotiators — though none by name — for not listening to his policy demands when his vote was needed.
“It is not the president. This is staff,” Manchin told home-state radio host Hoppy Kercheval. “And they drove some things, and they put some things out, that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is.”
When The Post asked Psaki if any of Biden’s aides would be reassigned in response to Manchin’s complaints, Psaki said “no and Sen. Manchin hasn’t even outlined more detail.”
The House passed the package last month with a $2.2 trillion price tag. But the Congressional Budget Office said the plan would cost about $4.5 trillion — and add $3 trillion to the federal deficit — if its programs are extended over 10 years, or the same period as proposed revenue streams.
The House-passed version includes $555 billion for environmental programs and would have federally funded four weeks of paid family leave and preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. It would have capped child care costs at 7 percent of income for most families and would have extended an enhanced child tax credit — from $2,000 to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for those under six.
The bill also would have increased from $10,000 to $80,000 the “SALT cap” on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes — benefiting people in high-tax area like New York and New Jersey — and expanded Medicare to include the cost of hearing aids.