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In bid to block Biden's $1.7 trillion bill, conservatives praise Democrat Manchin at home

A conservative group is spending almost $800,000 to blanket West Virginia with ads.

WASHINGTON — A conservative group focused on combating President Joe Biden's economic agenda is launching an almost $800,000 ad campaign pushing Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to oppose the $1.7 trillion social safety net and climate legislation.

Democrats in Congress are aiming to send Biden the bill by year's end, but that will mean first getting all 50 Democratic-voting senators, including Manchin, on board. Over the coming weeks, Democrats in the Senate are expected to wage intense negotiations to try to strike a balance that keeps the party's most liberal and its moderates behind the bill.

Republicans lack leverage to block the bill on their own, but pushing the Democrats who are most doubtful — primarily Manchin and centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., — could be their best hope to gum up Biden's big agenda piece.

The Coalition to Protect American Workers, a group led by Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, is running the ads targeting Manchin in West Virginia and which will begin airing this week.

The ads, which will air over two weeks, will echo issues Manchin has raised with the president's Build Back Better agenda, namely that it would contribute to inflation and threaten the coal industry.

"West Virginians are struggling as out-of-control inflation is driving up the cost of everything — from gas to groceries," one of three ads begins. "Fortunately, Joe Manchin's got our backs. He understands the importance of putting West Virginia people ahead of Washington politics. Tell Manchin — keep fighting for us."

The ad strikes a different tone than television ads normally do when funded from across the political aisle. But the unusual approach may be to stoke disappointment if Manchin ultimately votes for the bill.

The House passed the bill Nov. 19, just before the Thanksgiving recess, on a vote of 220-213, with just one Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, defecting and joining a unanimous GOP conference in opposition. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to face several changes to get all 50 Democratic-voting members on board.

“President Biden’s policies are far beyond the mainstream and Sen. Manchin is holding the line," Short told NBC News. "He deserves thanks for representing the interests of West Virginia families by slowing reckless spending and massive tax increases.”

Manchin is one of the key Democratic holdouts in the Senate. He has repeatedly voiced concern that the social safety net bill is too generous and provisions, such as paid family and medical leave, should be left out of the bill. Over the last several months, his objections have led to Democratic leaders altering or totally forgoing some of the provisions in the $1.7 trillion bill.

He has said before that he's concerned a multitrillion-dollar spending package would worsen inflation and that he can't vote for a bill in good conscience that would expand social programs and that would "irresponsibly" add trillions in national debt. The White House has argued the bill includes tax increases to avoid adding to the debt.

Republicans are unanimously opposed to the legislation and remain friendly with Manchin and Sinema, making sure they know they have allies on the Republican side.

“So we’re down to two who are resistant: Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Kentucky in September. "I pray for them every night. I wish them well. We give them lots of love."

As of Tuesday, Manchin was still noncommittal on if he'd vote for the safety net and climate legislation.

"Everybody's still talking and working," he told reporters, following a meeting with McConnell. "It's a work in progress, I guess."