On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin again declined to speculate about backing President Joe Biden in 2024 and said he was hopeful fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will come on board with a deficit reduction, climate and energy bill he negotiated.
Manchin’s new spending deal, brokered with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, would close corporate tax loopholes and levy a 15% corporate minimum tax, invest billions in clean energy and reducing emissions, lower prescription drug costs via Medicare and expand health care subsidies.
In an interview with "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Manchin touted the package's provisions -- which will need to earn the support of all 50 votes in the Democratic caucus given widespread Republican opposition.
A key vote will be Arizona’s Sinema, who has previously opposed closing the so-called carried interest tax loophole. Manchin and Schumer's bill limits but doesn't remove that exception.
"Sen. Sinema is my dear friend. I have all the respect for her, she's extremely bright and works very, very hard. She has an awful lot in this piece of legislation, the way it's been designed as far as the reduction of Medicare -- letting Medicare go ahead and negotiate for lower drug prices," Manchin said.
"She's very involved in that and I appreciate that," he told Karl. "Also, basically, when she said ... 'we're not going to raise taxes,' I agree with that." (Sinema has not yet weighed in on the proposal.)
Karl pressed Manchin on his assessment that the Senate legislation would help lower inflation, noting that a budget model from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania showed the bill would initially -- slightly -- add to inflation.
"I understand the difference of opinion," Manchin said. "We're basically investing in reliable energy, making sure that we use our fossil fuels cleaner than anyplace else in the world. But we're basically aggressively producing more energy to reduce the prices of gasoline and energy costs at your house and everywhere else. And basically, we've invested in new technologies to bring more manufacturing back, such as batteries … So all of this, they're not factoring any of that in."
Manchin, one of the Democratic Party's most conservative lawmakers, has previously declined to answer questions over his potential support for Biden in 2024.
Karl asked for clarity on Manchin's view, noting it was a "simple question."
Manchin said he wasn't "getting involved that."
"Everybody's worried about the election. That's the problem. It's the 2022 election, 2024 election. I'm not getting involved in that," Manchin said, adding, "I'm not getting into the 2022 or 2024. Whoever is the president, that's my president. Joe Biden is my president right now."
"You can’t even rule out voting for a Republican for president?" Karl asked
"I'm not getting into the 2024 election," Manchin responded.
His comments come amid continued speculation over whether Biden will run for reelection in two years given political challenges such as stubbornly high inflation, which helped push his approval rating down into the 30s, according to FiveThirtyEight. Democratic voters have said in some recent polls they want another 2024 nominee; Biden says he intends to run if he's healthy.
Manchin did credit Biden with helping bless the deficit-reduction bill he negotiated with Schumer, D-N.Y.
Manchin also defended working on the bill in secret with Schumer after earlier negotiations faltered several times, with Manchin citing his concerns about the historic inflation.
"I understand all the frustration, and the reason for that, I don't want them to go through that again. I didn't know if we could get a deal. I did not know if we can come to an agreement. So why would I put people through this, all this drama? I've been through this for eight months. I tried. I kept trying," Manchin said of the bill, which would pass through the budget reconciliation process requiring only 50 votes in the Senate.
Manchin rebuffed Republican senators who said they felt deceived by the surprise announcement last week that legislative text had been agreed to between Schumer and Manchin, maintaining he had consistently sought to find a deal with the rest of the Democratic caucus.
"They all knew where I was on that," Manchin said.