Paid leave falls out of Democratic package in urgent scramble to secure

The plan’s survival has been in question for several days due to objections from Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. Biden’s initial 12-week proposal was scaled back to four weeks in an effort to secure Manchin’s support. That was rejected, leading to an effort by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that attempted to find a compromise with Manchin.

That has not succeeded, one of the people said, prompting Democrats to push it out of the package as they seek to scale back the proposal’s overall cost and programs to meet Manchin’s demands.

“To expand social programs when you have trust funds that aren’t solvent, they’re going insolvent. I can’t explain that. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Manchin said. “I want to work with everyone as long as we can start paying for things. That’s all. I can’t put this burden on my grandchildren. I’ve got 10 grandchildren … I just can’t do it.”

But each move toward Manchin also risks alienating progressives, and dropping paid leave, which has been viewed as a cornerstone piece of the proposal, adds another complication for the White House and Democratic leaders as they seek to unify the party over the course of the next few hours.

Gillibrand told CNN Wednesday afternoon that she is still working to convince Manchin to support the inclusion of paid leave. She described reports that it is completely out as “definitely premature.”

“He hasn’t signed off on my recent proposal, and so it’s not yet agreed to,” she said, “but I’m not giving up and I’m not going to give up until the deal is signed.”

But Manchin suggested Wednesday evening that paid family and medical leave doesn’t belong in the Democrats’ reconciliation bill at all. The West Virginia lawmaker told CNN that Democrats should be “examining all this stuff,” but “to put this in a reconciliation bill major policy … is not the place to do it.”

“I am just saying we have to be careful what we are doing, if we are going to do it, do it right,” Manchin said.

White House officials have warned for several days that the paid leave proposals could be cut from of the package, despite Biden’s strong support for them. But despite the push by congressional Democrats to find a path to keep it in, the proposal becomes the latest element to hit the cutting room floor, joining free tuition for community college, marginal tax rate increases to finance the proposal and the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a cornerstone piece of Biden’s climate proposal.

The decisions underscore Biden and Democratic leaders’ clear urgency to lock in an agreement that can pass muster with Manchin and Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — and move it as quickly as possible.

The Point: Is Joe Manchin serious?

After an Oval Office meeting with Biden on Tuesday night and a subsequent two-hour meeting with his top negotiators in the Capitol on Wednesday, the sides were nearing an agreement, people familiar with the talks said.

But whether that agreement would maintain the support of the broader House and Senate Democratic caucuses has remained an open question.

“The President is working with everybody now,” Manchin said Wednesday evening. “There is not a whole lot to say. Everybody is working really…

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