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Opinion Progressives say they’re open to Manchin’s new framework. So what’s the holdup?

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash). (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
4 min

This week, Sen. Joe Manchin III indicated that he’s prepared to restart negotiations over a climate and social policy bill that could pass the Senate with only Democrats. So is there any hope of progress?

For that to happen, you need two things: First, the West Virginia Democrat must take a firm position. Second, other Democrats, including progressives in the House, have to agree to what he wants.

In a sign of movement, progressives are now signaling a new openness to Manchin’s overture, which suggests there’s a way forward.

In an interview, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said progressives are ready to talk to Manchin about his framework, and signaled a deal is possible, with caveats.

“We’re open to that approach,” Jayapal told us.

Jayapal opened the door to a way this could work. A good starting place, she said, would be to agree to specifics on what revenue generators can get Manchin’s support — and can get 50 votes in the Senate — and then talk about what to fund with them.

“Let’s come up with the revenue-producing measures,” Jayapal said, and then “look at it from there.”

Manchin told reporters he’s open to a package that includes some corporate tax reforms and higher taxes on top earners that were in the Build Back Better package (which he killed). He’s also open to raising money by allowing the government some ability to negotiate drug prices.

But Manchin also said a chunk of those revenues must be plowed back into deficit reduction, and the remainder put toward something like BBB’s proposals for combating climate change — tax incentives and other measures to encourage manufacture and consumption of alternate energy sources. Manchin insists those programs must be permanent.

Jayapal said progressives would be open to this general framework.

“We’re open to putting some of it toward deficit reduction, and then climate,” Jayapal said, adding that this framework could also include whatever other provisions Manchin might be willing to support with whatever is left over to spend.

As tax and health-care experts told us Wednesday, such an approach could raise at least $1.5 trillion in revenue, and perhaps more depending on what other taxes Manchin is open to. If that were divided by putting some into deficit reduction and about $500 billion into climate, as BBB did, you might have a few hundred billion extra for other expenditures.

Importantly, Jayapal said this could work for progressives. Under such a framework, you might be able to put those extra revenues into expanding health-care subsidies, or into subsidies for child care.

Such an outcome would be scaled way down from the original BBB. But Jayapal suggested it would nonetheless be a major achievement that would be worthwhile for progressives to support.

“We’d have to see all the details, but progressives are absolutely committed to trying to deliver as much as we can,” Jayapal told us, saying that even the items on this more limited list “are all big progressive priorities.”

“We want to try and get major things done," Jayapal continued.

Still, Jayapal cautioned that progressives would like to see legislative text that Manchin says he can support, and then “let’s have a conversation."

This shouldn’t actually come as that much of a surprise. Progressives are still eager to vote for any part of the original BBB they can get. They might grumble a bit, but if a bill embodying Manchin’s desires came up for a vote, and it included some combination like the ones outlined above, odds are approximately 100 percent that progressives would support it.

Indeed, there is no reason that a specific version of Manchin’s own framework — one that he himself writes, or at least blesses — should not form the basis of such talks. In a way, a silver lining here is that Manchin has offered up a framework that would leave far fewer things to negotiate.

If Manchin means what he says — which is an extremely big “if” — then this really shouldn’t be that difficult a problem to solve. All everyone has to do is decide to solve it.