“I'm concerned about an awful lot of things,” Manchin told reporters. Those things aren’t how much carbon the industry that funds him is pouring into the atmosphere, or how much he wants to reward them for doing so. No, he’s concerned about pinching social services pennies—he doesn’t want any of those undeserving people feeling like they should have health care or something.
For example, he doesn’t want a federal solution to the problem of 2 million Americans not being able to get on Medicaid because their Republican lawmakers won’t allow it. A number of Democrats—including Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock who has to defend his seat next year and who ran in part on Medicaid expansion—want to find a solution for these people, to go over the heads of the Republican governors and legislators who have been denying them care for nine years.
Manchin doesn’t want this fix: “The problem that I have with that one right now, we're paying 90/10. So 10 percent is being paid by all the states. For states that held out and be rewarded 100 percent is not fair," Manchin said. Because he can’t comprehend that providing coverage to 2 million people isn’t the goal, isn’t a good thing. Isn’t a thing that could also help Warnock win reelection.
“He’s raised some concerns and I think I’ve answered them,” Warnock said Monday. “Some are saying that it is unfair to people in the expansion states. I think what’s unfair is for the people of Georgia to be paying for health care that they can’t access.” Warnock might have answered those concerns, but that’s not a guarantee Manchin actually listened.
Manchin’s other “big concern right now” is expanding Medicare services to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage. “Medicare and Social Security is a lifeline to people back in West Virginia, most people around the country,” he told reporters. “You’ve got to stabilize that first before you look at basically expansion so if you’re not being fiscally responsible that’s really concerning.” Those are also things that could be relatively easily fixed, for example by Medicare being allowed to negotiate drug prices and save billions. That’s being opposed by fellow Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Bob Menendez, so Manchin isn’t the only villain on that front.
Meanwhile, House leadership has been leaning hard on progressives to swallow whatever Manchin will allow in the package. “Embrace this,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told them in a Monday evening meeting. “And have a narrative of success.”
“If we don’t act like we are winning, the American people won’t believe it either,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told them. Act like you’re winning, even though everything Biden and you promised to bring them in the last election isn’t going to be delivered. Sure.
Progressives are holding out to the degree they can. Washington State Rep. Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN’s Manu Raju that her group still wants this bill and the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill to pass together because, basically, you can’t trust Manchin and Sinema.
That said, the fight will be making sure that the two bills are voted on together and that Manchin and Sinema don’t pull the rug out from under them, because they’re prepared to get whatever they can get out of the larger bill.
“The vast majority of our priorities are in, but there are a couple of areas where that’s still not the case,” Jayapal told reporters Monday night. “What we’ll continue to do is push as hard as we can, but just recognize that there are 50 senators and we have no margin in the Senate.” She added the caveat, “Nobody should take progressive votes for granted.”
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