There is fear among Democrats that Sen. Joe Manchin, considered one of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate and a key swing vote, may break ranks and scuttle their new deal on jobless benefits — and side with Republicans instead.
The new deal, which would extend jobless benefits through September at $300 per week, also includes a provision ensuring the first $10,200 of jobless benefits would be tax free.
The White House and Democratic leaders support this, but they need 51 votes to amend the bill with this new proposal.
Manchin does not yet support this idea — namely the $10,200 in tax-free benefits, according to a senator with knowledge of the situation.
If he votes no, then the amendment will very likely fail.
At the same time, Manchin has been supportive of $300 per week through July — an idea that GOP Sen. Rob Portman plans to propose as an amendment today.
It seems unlikely that all Republicans will support the Portman plan. But if all 50 do, and Manchin votes for it, they may be able to pare back the jobless benefits in the underlying bill.
“I think that would be a real problem,” one Democratic senator said.
The underlying relief bill would extend jobless benefits at $400 per week through August.
The concern over Manchin is why action is now stalled in the Senate.
CNN reported earlier that a number of Democrats huddled around Manchin on the Senate floor as the two sides are trying to figure out how to move ahead on jobless benefits.
Sens. Jon Tester, Kyrsten Sinema, Catherine Cortez Masto all were huddled around him. Then he walked over to talk with Sen. Portman.
CNN has reached out to Manchin’s office.