Top Dems put squeeze on for a social spending deal as Manchin-Sinema talks resume

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Joe Biden and Democratic leadership in both chambers are pushing to close a deal Wednesday with two critical centrist holdouts on the president’s domestic agenda.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are set to meet with senior White House staff on Wednesday morning after sitting down with Biden on Tuesday evening to hash out the remaining obstacles to an agreement on the party's once-lofty social spending vision. Once pegged at $3.5 trillion, the bill's price tag is now below $2 trillion. Democratic leaders are still pushing for a framework this week before Biden heads overseas.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats on Wednesday morning that she would update her members on talks between Biden, Sinema and Manchin, but that her party is “in pretty good shape.” Even so, Pelosi continues to face an intense push-pull from progressives — who want to see a full social spending bill before voting on the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure deal — and moderates who want to get the infrastructure vote finally set, as soon as possible.

“It’s lamb eat lamb. There is no bad decision. We have to choose,” Pelosi told her members, according to a source familiar with her remarks.

Asked whether she would insist on an infrastructure vote that rides alongside a full vote on the party-line social spending bill, as her left flank has called for, Pelosi said: "I don’t want to get any impression that there was any promise these two would go together. At least I wasn’t part of that.”

Progressives have also blanched at Sinema’s efforts to avoid raising tax rates and Manchin’s move to cut the bill to as little as $1.5 trillion. Those moves have prompted a deal on a corporate minimum tax and tenuous negotiations on a billionaires tax, as well as potential cuts to plans for Medicare expansion, Medicaid expansion and paid leave.

Democrats are more confident about climate subsidies and universal pre-K making it into in the package, along with an extension of the child tax credit. But it all comes down to where Manchin and Sinema fall — and whether the rest of the party’s thin majorities go along with Biden's dealmaking.

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