“How about zero?” Manchin, Sanders get heated behind closed doors

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) squabbled behind closed doors Wednesday, with Manchin using a raised-fist goose egg to tell his colleague he can live without any of President Biden’s social spending plan, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The disagreement, recounted to Axios by two senators in the room, underscores how far apart two key members remain as the Democratic Party tries to meet its deadline for reaching an agreement on a budget reconciliation framework by Friday.

It also shows that despite the “kumbaya meeting” between Manchin and Sanders on Monday — after which they posed together for photos — the two remain sharply divided.

Manchin’s comfort level with zero as a final number — and his willingness to threaten Sanders with it publicly at Wednesday’s lunch for Senate committee chairs — reveals a stark reality for Democratic negotiators: Manchin can control the final dollar amount.