President Joe Biden on Tuesday insisted that he and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin will “get something done” on the Build Back Better Act after Manchin defied his party by torpedoing the key piece of Biden’s domestic agenda.
“Some people think maybe I’m not Irish because I don’t hold a grudge. But I want to get things done,” said Biden, when asked whether the West Virginia Democrat broke a commitment to him. “I still think there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done.”
The President also told reporters he had been “told (Manchin) was speaking to the liberal caucus in the House and said, ‘Joe Biden didn’t mislead you, I misled you.’” It was unclear what meeting Biden was referring to.
Later Tuesday, the White House attempted to clean up that comment.
“The President was underlining that constructive and respectful conversations are happening in good faith between himself, Senator Manchin, and other lawmakers. However, the President wanted to clarify that Senator Manchin did not characterize himself as having been ‘misleading,’” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement Tuesday evening. “The President looks forward to continuing to work together with Senator Manchin and his colleagues in the Senate and House to address shared priorities based on common values.”
CNN has reached out to Manchin’s office for comment on Biden’s remarks.
Manchin spoke with the Senate Democratic Caucus in a Tuesday night call that his spokesperson called “an honest conversation with his colleagues for whom he has a great deal of respect.”
The West Virginian told the caucus he’s been consistent for the past five months, saying inflation is a problem and noting he has been raising geopolitical concerns as well. He said they need tax reform to force the rich to pay more, according to a source briefed on the call.
Another source briefed on the call said the senator told the caucus: “Inflation is a serious issue. These programs will cost more than they are saying. I can’t add to the debt.” The source added that Democrats spoke up and took issue with Manchin’s characterizations.
Schumer pushes for vote
Senate Majority Leader Chuck said on the private caucus call that Democrats will vote on the sweeping economic and climate bill in January, a Democratic source told CNN.
The source said Schumer told the caucus that the provisions in Build Back Better are needed and too important to give up on. “I know we are all frustrated at this outcome. However, we are not giving up on BBB. Period. We won’t stop working on it until we pass a bill,” the New York Democrat said.
During the call, Democrats expressed their desire to get a bill passed and aired their concerns about the possibility of the process getting derailed, the source said.
Manchin announced Sunday that he could not support Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which required his support in order for it to pass in the Senate, where Democrats have an ultra-slim majority. “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” he told Fox News. “This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”
The move stoked widespread outrage among progressives, many of whom questioned his allegiance to the party and wondered if he might drop his affiliation after he thwarted one of Democrats’ major legislative priorities.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, appeared to seize on the back-and-forth in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, saying that “obviously we would love to have him on our team,” and, “I think he’d be more comfortable.”
But Manchin has been clear that he still considers himself a Democrat even after his Sunday announcement. Asked in a wide-ranging interview Monday whether there is still a place for him in the party, he told West Virginia Radio: “Well, I think.”
“I would like to hope that there are still Democrats that feel like I do. … I’m socially – I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate,” he said. “Now, if there’s no Democrats like that, then they’ll have to push me wherever they want me.”
Talks to continue
A source familiar with the matter said Manchin told his colleagues Tuesday night that he would keep talking but that he has issues with the current bill.
The senator has indicated that he would not quickly get behind a scaled-back version of the plan, arguing that it should instead go through the committee process before trying to move it through the Senate via the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. That position foreshadows grim prospects for Biden’s hopes of getting even a narrow plan through Congress.
Still, the President insisted Tuesday there’s a path forward for the legislation as he touted it as an important tool to fight rising inflation and address the cost of medicine.
“I’m not joking about this. Imagine being a parent looking at a child, and you can’t afford – you have no house to borrow against, you have no savings. It’s wrong. But all the things in that bill are going to reduce prices and costs for middle class and working class people. It’s going to reduce their costs,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.
CNN’s Lauren Fox and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.