Speed Reads

How do you solve a problem like Manchinema?

Manchin and Sinema's 'very different' bottom lines could sink Build Back Better plan, Biden ally says

As President Biden and congressional Democrats try to push their large social and climate policy bill over the finish line, one question dominates the calculus: What will Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) accept to support Biden's Build Back Better plan? They are such a formidable centrist obstacle, they even have a celebrity couple name: Manchinema — or maybe Sinemin.

Unfortunately for Democrats, Politico reports early Wednesday, a major "part of solving the Manchinema puzzle is that the 74-year-old former governor from a coal state and the 45-year-old former Green Party activist from Arizona are at odds on some major policies." 

"Manchin and Sinema want very different things, both in terms of revenue and programs," a source close to Biden tells Politico. "If you just took their currently presented red lines you wouldn't have enough left to get this past progressives in the House and Senate. It wouldn't raise enough money and it wouldn't do enough big programs."

Sinema, who "only negotiates with the White House," is leery of the proposals to lower prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate them, Politico reports, adding that this is "one of the most popular policies on the Democrats' menu of options and many party strategists believe Democrats owe their House majority to this issue." Manchin is "much more willing to support a bolder version of drug pricing reform," Politico says, but he "opposes several Democratic ideas to price carbon pollution, while Sinema favors them." 

"So, like where the hell is the overlap?" the Biden confidant asks — and Politico has an answer, though it won't be popular in the Democratic caucus: "The path to getting the total bill to above $2 trillion may require dedicating $100-200 billion to paying down the debt, a priority that both Manchin and Sinema actually agree on." You can read more about what Manchin and Sinema want — and how Democratic groups and activists are using both "honey" and "vinegar" to get the two on board — at Politico.