Manchin to Sanders on size of BBB bill: 'I'm comfortable with zero'

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool

Axios has a scoop up about the most recent negotiations between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Joe Manchin. According to multiple people who were in the room Wednesday, Sen. Sanders tried to argue for the $3.5 trillion version of the Build Back Better bill by claiming he wanted a much larger bill:

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, “There was a vigorous, 10-minute discussion. Bernie said, ‘$6 trillion.'”

“[Manchin] said, ‘We shouldn’t do it at all,'”

Sen. Tester, who was also in the room, recalls the exchange slightly differently. He says Manchin replied, “I’m comfortable with zero” and held up his hand making a circle to emphasize the point. Manchin continued, “This will contribute to inflation. We’ve already passed the American Rescue Plan. We should just pass the infrastructure bill and, you know, pause for six months.”

Democrats have been pushing to get some kind of deal agreed to by the end of this week, probably because they are desperate to announce a big win for team blue before the Virginia governor’s election. But Sanders’ tactics clearly aren’t working on Manchin. Asked today if an agreement was close, Manchin said no.

It really sounds like Sen. Sanders, who has recently struggled with basic math, has not yet absorbed the position he and other progressives are in. They have zero leverage over Sen. Manchin in this situation. Manchin is not going to pay a price back home for rejecting this bill. In fact, he may not even be running again in 2024. Nor is he necessarily going to suffer within the Democratic caucus for rejecting it. As a leaked report the other day suggested, he has other options. He denied that report was true yesterday but walked back the denial a bit today.

That same report yesterday, about Manchin leaving the party, said his bottom line number on BBB was $1.75 trillion, exactly half of what Democrats are demanding. How many more days are they going to keep pushing for more when it’s clear Manchin is willing to walk away completely?