White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to weigh in on Sen. Joe Manchin’s $1.5 trillion top line on a reconciliation package during Thursday’s White House briefing, telling reporters, “As we’ve said many times, we’re not going to outline private negotiations or private discussions, and we’ll let the senators speak for that, as Senator Manchin did earlier today.”
“The way the President sees it, is that this is an ongoing discussion, an ongoing negotiation. Here’s what we know. We know that timelines helped make progress. We’ve seen that play out over the course of the last couple of days. We know that compromise is inevitable. We’ve also seen that play out over the last couple of days. And right now, we’re clearly in the thick of it,” Psaki said.
Earlier Thursday, moderate Democratic Sen. Manchin made clear Thursday that $1.5 trillion was the price tag he was willing to settle on for his party’s plan to expand the social safety net, putting him $2 trillion away from the lowest number progressive Democrats have said they would accept. Manchin said he informed President Biden that was his number, and Biden said he needed more than that. “I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form,” Manchin said. “I’m willing to come from zero to 1.5 (trillion).”
Pressed by CNN’s Phil Mattingly on the wide gap between Manchin’s proposal and the White House’s proposed $3.5 trillion price tag, Psaki struck an optimistic tone, saying, “I think the President views this as the last several days, and even longer than that, his view is we’ve made some progress. You’ve seen some members come down, you’ve seen some members come up. You’ve seen active negotiations, he’s obviously been hard at work with them himself.”
“And what we clearly see is an agreement about the need to get this done, whether it’s the infrastructure bill, or the reconciliation practice package, which has key priorities for the president,” Psaki added.
Psaki would not say if Biden planned to remain in Washington this weekend, telling reporters, “we’re taking it hour by hour here on making a decision and determination about what’s most needed.”
“So, as it relates to what’s even going to happen this afternoon, we’re open, he’s available, he’s been making calls this morning, he’s open to having visitors, he’s open to going places, but we’re going to make those decisions, hour by hour, so the weekend’s a little bit away, but I will tell you that this is the President’s top priority right now,” she said, adding the White House is “working towards,” a framework that can unlock the infrastructure vote later today.