“Joe is not a bad guy. He’s a friend, ”he said of Manchin, while speaking of the difficulty of reaching an agreement with him on extending Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits. . “I think it’s a good idea. But here’s the thing. Mr. Manchin is against it.
“And I think Senator Sinema is too,” Biden said, adding hearing benefits were important to the senator. The President said he believed he would be able to resolve these issues without changing Medicare.
Biden also called Sinema “smart as hell” and “very supportive of the environmental agenda of my legislation.” But, he hastened to add, “she will not take a single penny from the taxes of companies and / or the rich”.
After the fact, a White House aide clarified: “The president was referring to the challenge of having the votes to move forward on raising the corporate rate, not the ability to generate income through a series of other tax fairness proposals that Senator Sinema supports. . “
The remarks nevertheless effectively placed the two senators on the front of the stage. And they suggest the White House is still struggling to come to final agreements on key elements and could be anxious to see Democratic voters step up campaigns to pressure them to join them.
Biden checked the West Virginia senator’s name again when asked about the clean energy protection program, another item Manchin objected to, before coming up with alternatives to gain his support.
“Joe Manchin’s argument is, ‘Look, we still have coal in my state, you’ll end up eliminating it, we know it’s going to go away, we know it’s going to go away, but don’t rush it. so fast that my people have nothing to do, ”the president said. “I think that’s not what we should be doing. But the point is, we can take that $ 150 billion, add it to the $ 320 billion that’s in the law now that he’s ready to support tax incentives.
But Biden stressed that no concessions were made for Manchin to have coal in his state. “Nothing has been formally agreed,” he said.
Biden said negotiators only have four or five things left on which they disagree. He also underlined the compromises that had been reached to get there. A paid vacation provision would be reduced to four weeks, and the final deal would not include funding for a tuition-free community college.
“I think I will make a deal,” he said of his broad economic package, adding that he believed the negotiations were about to end.
“Look, I was a senator for 370 years,” Biden said with a laugh. “I was… relatively good at closing deals. ”
Biden took the stage in front of an invitation-only, fully vaccinated audience. The president faced a friendly and responsive crowd, often interrupted by loud cheers and laughter as he dropped new clues about the state of the negotiations.
At other times in town hall, he has expressed his eagerness to move forward on other legislative topics such as police reform and voting rights. And he conceded that he couldn’t pass filibuster reform now, not because of philosophical opposition to it, but because it would complicate his legislative agenda.
“If, in fact, I’m getting into the filibuster debate right now, I’m losing at least three votes to get what I have to do on the economic side of the equation,” he said. declared.
Biden then hinted that he would pass Senate rule reform on things like raising the debt ceiling and, potentially, voting rights legislation if they didn’t move around the chamber.
“As far as voting rights go, just to be clear, though, you’d consider removing the filibuster on that one issue alone, wouldn’t you?” host Anderson Cooper asked.
“And maybe more,” Biden said.