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Manchin says 'no negotiations' in the works with White House on Build Back Better

Manchin said last month that he could not vote for the House-passed version of President Joe Biden's signature legislation, throwing its prospects into doubt.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key vote on the Build Back Better bill, said he has not taken part in any negotiations with the White House after he said last month that he could not support President Joe Biden’s signature legislation.

"There is no negotiation going on at this time," Manchin told reporters Tuesday.

Manchin declared last month that he could not vote for the House-passed version of the bill, throwing its prospects into doubt and leaving the White House scrambling to salvage the nearly $2 trillion package.

"You know, I've never turned down any talks with anybody. I really haven't. I was very clear on where I stand, and I thought it was time to do that," Manchin said Tuesday, referring to his announcement.

Biden and Manchin spoke the evening after Manchin declared his opposition, two sources familiar with the call said at the time.

The sources said that the call was cordial and that the two kept the door open to further negotiations. Biden and Manchin ended the call with an understanding that they would speak again, the sources said.

Several days after Manchin publicly opposed the bill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether there had been any more contact with Manchin or his office since the call.

Psaki said, "We have been in touch with his team and his office, and I expect we will continue to be in touch with him as well, but I’m not going to outline all those specifics from here."

On a call with fellow Senate Democrats before Christmas, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the Senate would vote on a revised version of the Build Back Better Act and a potential rules change — if Republicans do not drop the filibuster — early in the new year. Both endeavors hinge largely on Manchin, the linchpin of the 50-50 Senate.

Asked Tuesday about changing the filibuster rule, Manchin said that it was a "heavy lift" and that he preferred to do it with Republican support.

"That's my absolute preference," he said. "You know, I have to exhaust everything in my ability to talk and negotiate with people before I start doing things that other people might think need to be done."

Changing the filibuster rules would allow a vote on sweeping legislation to expand access to the ballot box and safeguard against election subversion. The legislation is a high priority for Biden, Democratic lawmakers and progressive advocates.