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WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday his opposition to President Joe Biden's roughly $2 trillion package of social and environmental initiatives remains undimmed, as party leaders said work on the stalled measure was on hold until at least later this month.
Manchin, D-W Va., told reporters that he's not currently negotiating with the White House over the standoff, but didn't rule out continuing talks. Manchin, who was his party's chief remaining holdout over months of talks, surprised and angered party leaders before Christmas by saying he could not support the legislation as written.
"I feel as strongly today as I did then," Manchin said in his first extended remarks since announcing his opposition on Dec. 19, when he cited concerns about the measure's impact on inflation and federal deficits. Other Democrats have dismissed those criticisms as unfounded.
His comments Tuesday, along with leaders' concessions that the bill is on the back burner for now, suggested that the legislation's fate remains in doubt as the calendar slips ever closer to this November's congressional elections.
There are examples of flailing presidential priorities eventually clawing their way to passage, including then-President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a 2009 effort that wasn't enacted until March 2010. But often, the prospects for obstructed bills fade over time as opponents mount offensives that weaken support from lawmakers seeking reelection in closely divided districts.
Democrats would need all their votes in the 50-50 Senate to advance the measure over unanimous Republican opposition. A version of the package has already passed the House.