WASHINGTON — If Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia ruled the world, Democrats’ marquee domestic policy bill would look much different than what President Biden and top Democrats have proposed.
And in an evenly divided Senate, where Democrats need the support of every single one of their members to push through the package, Mr. Manchin — one of his party’s only holdouts on the bill — might as well be king.
Mr. Manchin has not been shy about laying out what he wants to see: a much cheaper, less generous, more targeted and less environmentally friendly measure than the one Mr. Biden and Democrats envision.
His desires and concerns are, in large part, driving negotiations over what the final package should look like. Underscoring his place in the debate, Mr. Manchin and Mr. Biden spoke by phone on Monday, according to a person familiar with the call. The senator also met privately with Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to discuss the plan. And Mr. Manchin told reporters he met with Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and chairman of the Budget Committee, who has been particularly critical of Mr. Manchin’s views.
The talks will continue on Tuesday, when the White House plans another series of meetings with moderate and liberal Democrats to try to find consensus.
Here is what Mr. Manchin has in mind.
A plan of no more than $1.5 trillion
Mr. Manchin has insisted that he does not want the bill to cost more than $1.5 trillion over the course of a decade, $2 trillion less than the package Democrats included in their budget blueprint.
“Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Publicly and privately, Mr. Manchin has said he is concerned that too much additional spending now could exacerbate already high inflation. At a time when much of his party has brushed aside concerns over the growing federal debt, he has said the government must scale back its borrowing.
He wants any new spending in the plan to be paid for by tax increases. And in a memo over the summer outlining his priorities, Mr. Manchin said the package should raise additional revenue that should go toward reducing the deficit.
Steeper tax increases
Mr. Manchin has pushed for more tax increases than many others in his party, focusing on generating the money needed to fully pay for the plan.
Most notably, while Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another holdout on the bill, has so far resisted the breadth of the tax increases the Biden administration has proposed, Mr. Manchin has openly called to roll back many of the tax cuts Republicans enacted in 2017.
In his memo this summer, Mr. Manchin outlined a series of tax increases, including raising the corporate rate to 25 percent from 21 percent, increasing the top individual income rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent and raising the capital gains tax rate to 28 percent.
Weaker climate change provisions
In recent days, it has become clear that a proposed clean electricity program aimed at replacing coal- and gas-fired power plants with solar, nuclear and wind energy will most likely be dropped from the package because of Mr. Manchin’s opposition.
Instead, White House officials and congressional staff members are coalescing around a possible tax on carbon dioxide pollution or a voluntary version of a cap-and-trade program to create a market for polluters to buy and sell allowances for a certain amount of emissions.
They are also considering adding to $300 billion in clean energy tax incentives and credits that remain in the bill, while looking for ways to salvage some parts of the clean electricity program. Mr. Manchin previously said he was open to those taxes and tax credits, provided that fossil fuel tax credits were not repealed.
“We want to make sure we have reliable power,” he told reporters. “We have basically cleaned up the environment more than any other time in the history of this world.”
Mr. Manchin, whose state produces some of the highest levels of coal and natural gas nationally, has long been averse to anything that would punish companies for not moving more quickly to clean energy.
Less generous, more targeted federal aid
Mr. Manchin has long fretted about the possibility of creating what he has called “an entitlement society” with a wide net of universal benefits. At times, he has pushed either to limit the benefits to those who need the assistance most — an approach known as means-testing — or to place work requirements on some of the programs.
He has not said publicly how he would apply means-testing to the package, which could vary based on the program. A report by Axios indicated that he had told the White House that he wanted to limit a program providing monthly payments to families with children to parents who earn around $60,000 or less, and to impose a work requirement. (A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin declined to comment on the accuracy of the report.)
Mr. Manchin has succeeded in prodding Democrats to trim back such programs in the past. He single-handedly held up action on a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid plan this year until the Biden administration and party leaders agreed to scale back unemployment benefits and to impose a stricter income cap on eligibility for another round of direct payments.
Jim Tankersley and Coral Davenport contributed reporting.