Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached a secret agreement that sent shock waves through the Democratic Party and felt like a stab in the back to the GOP.
The two men agreed early this week but kept their mouths shut about it. This closely guarded secret deal allowed the Democrats to have just enough time to get their $280 billion chips and science bill passed. Had the Republicans known about Manchin’s decision, they would have certainly blocked that deal.
When it was announced that the deal between Schumer and Manchin would raise $739 billion in new tax revenue, it came as a complete surprise to senators on both sides of the aisle. This agreement also made possible funds for multiple new climate provisions, and pay down $300 billion of the federal deficit. The surprises kept coming.
“I’d say it’s somewhere between a surprise and a shock,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) after hearing Schumer explain the deal on Thursday morning.
Now one was expecting this because it was just less than two weeks ago that any talks between the two senators ended in chaos.
Schumer signaled at that point that he would continue with a scaled-down budget reconciliation bill that included only prescription drug reform and a two-year extension of expiring Affordable Care Act subsidies.
Manchin described the negotiations as heated with tempers lost. Schumer accused the West Virginia senator of “walking away” from the deal after months of effort.
Manchin and Schumer Budget Talks Get Heated
“It got a little bit hot and heated if you will,” Manchin said.
“He said you’re walking, you’re not going to do this or that,” Manchin recalled. “I said, ‘Chuck, I’m not walking away from anything, I’m just being very cautious. The people of West Virginia cannot afford higher prices. They can’t afford higher gasoline prices, higher food prices.’”
Manchin insisted that no matter what Schumer said, he never walked away from the deal.
By the following Monday, they ran into each other again, this time with cooler temperatures. Schumer asked Manchin if he was still upset, and he said that he was “very discouraged.” Schumer promised that something could be down if they all would “work rationally.”
They hashed out the deal on Tuesday night and then Schumer went to work on the final passage of the chips and science bill noontime Wednesday.
Republicans who voted for tens of billions of dollars for the domestic semiconductor manufacturing industry and the National Science Foundation were outraged and felt betrayed.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a key player in getting the chips and science bill passed, said he received “assurance privately from some Democrats, including the staff of the Senate majority leader, that the tax and climate provisions were off the table.”
Cornyn took to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon and said, “How can we negotiate in good faith, compromise where necessary, and get things done together after the majority leader and the senator from West Virginia pull a stunt like this?” he said with rising exasperation. “To look you in the eye and tell you one thing and to do another is absolutely unforgivable.”
But Manchin seems bewildered that Republicans are feeling betrayed.
“No, you know, I sure hope they don’t feel that way. I mean, I understand that they are, but I don’t know why,” he told reporters.
Schumer is describing the process as breaking down with Manchin on July 14, but then Manchin visited him on the following Monday, July 18th. The West Virginia senator asked for a meeting to try and work it out together and Schumer agreed but said that it had to be finished in August. Manchin’s staff took the lead in setting up the new communication opportunity and kept the lead in the negotiations.
Manchin said that his staff shaved about $400 billion to $500 billion in other revenue-producing tax reforms from the bill. He said that he kept President Biden on the sidelines and told the press in his state that Biden was not involved.
With this secret meeting and Manchin’s inability to understand the level of betrayal the GOP is feeling, future bipartisan deals are hanging in the balance.