Biden and Manchin will keep talking on $1.75 trillion spending bill -Manchin spokesperson By Reuters3 min read

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© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden delivers closing remarks with leaders from democratic nations at the State Department’s virtual Summit for Democracy, in a speech from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washing

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By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Senator Joe Manchin had “a productive conversation” but will keep talking as Democrats struggle to overcome stubborn differences on a $1.75 trillion spending package, a Manchin spokesman said.

The pair spoke on Monday as Biden attempted to ease passage of the “Build Back Better” bill, which aims to bolster the social safety net and fight climate change.

“Senator Manchin and President Biden had a productive conversation this afternoon. They will continue to talk over the coming days,” Manchin spokesman Sam Runyon said.

Months of disagreement have held up the social spending legislation, leading the chair of Congress’ large progressive Democratic caucus to voice exasperation on Monday at what she said were deliberate misrepresentations of the bill.

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal criticized an analysis of the bill released on Friday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office at the request of Senate Republicans, which found that the bill would add $3 trillion to the federal budget deficit over the next decade if all its programs ran that long.

That conflicted with an earlier CBO analysis, based on provisions in the bill that would phase out some programs, that it would increase the deficit by $367 billion. Democrats argue that all of that would be offset by increased tax revenue.

“We made tough choices to only fund certain programs for fewer years (because the) top line number had to come down,” Jayapal wrote in a series of tweets. “It is completely illogical to impute a score on a non-existent bill & shows GOP is just trying to kill it,” she said, referring to Republicans.

The bill has already been scaled back in scope from $3.5 trillion.

Top Senate Democrat Charles Schumer has said he hopes to pass the bill by Christmas.

Manchin, a pivotal moderate swing vote without whom the bill cannot pass, has been the chief obstacle, calling on Democrats to slow down the process and consider issues like inflation. He has talked about putting off passage of the bill until next year.

Jayapal agreed to corral most of the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus into voting for Biden’s major infrastructure bill in November on Democratic leadership’s promise that Build Back Better would pass.

Progressive Democrats are decrying the lack of movement on the bill’s passage.

“Forcing millions to start paying student loans again and cutting off the Child Tax Credit at the start of an election year is not a winning strategy,” Representative Cori Bush, a first-term progressive Democrat, said on Twitter (NYSE:).

Meanwhile, Democrats continued trying to resolve differences within the party on several components of Build Back Better. Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto succeeded in having a provision removed from the bill that would have set a new federal tax on certain nicotine products mainly used in vaping.

Cortez Masto, who is up for re-election next year in the swing state of Nevada, objected to the tax, which she said would violate Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on anyone with an annual income below $400,000.

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