U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said on Thursday that Democrats are not going to reach an agreement "anytime soon" on President Joe Biden's ambitious expansion of social programs.
Manchin spoke as Democrats tussled over Biden's spending plan that is likely to be reduced from $3.5 trillion to below $2 trillion, as a result of opposition from Democratic moderates including Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
The Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, giving Manchin and Sinema powerful sway over the direction of legislation.
As a senator from West Virginia, a conservative state that relies on coal and has largely backed Republican politicians in recent years, Manchin has been at odds with many of his fellow Democrats over key aspects of Biden’s agenda, including its climate change provisions.
Despite the tensions, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday that all parties were negotiating in good faith, including Manchin and Sinema.
JEAN-PIERRE: "A couple days ago the President spent hours meeting with congressional members and everyone basically said the same, which is, there is progress and we're moving forward in a way that we can really, truly help Americans invest in economic growth for the middle class."
Disagreements over the scale of the massive spending bill have held up Biden's domestic agenda, with progressives in the House of Representatives refusing to vote for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate until a deal is reached on the larger bill.
Democratic leadership had been hoping to reach a new framework on the spending plan this week, but Manchin told reporters Thursday – it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
As negotiations escalate, Manchin also acknowledged on Thursday having discussed leaving the party if his Democratic colleagues considered his stance “an embarrassment.”