White House chief of staff Ron Klain walks in behind Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, before a signing ceremony for the “Inflation and Reduction Act.”
Ron Klain said he hopes Joe Manchin “likes him” after reports that the two Democrats clashed.
Looking back at how the climate bill became law, Klain said it’s “never been personal” with Manchin.
Klain stressed that as White House chief of staff his job requires being “the heavy.”
White House chief of staff Ron Klain said he’s gotten along “pretty well” with Sen. Joe Manchin, but he didn’t necessarily dispute that he and the West Virginia Democrat clashed as President Joe Biden’s economic agenda became increasingly imperiled before a last-minute breakthrough.
“Look, it’s never been personal with Senator Manchin,” Klain told Politico’s Ryan Lizza in response to a question about his reported disputes with Manchin. “I like Senator Manchin, and I hope he likes me. We’ve, I think, gotten along pretty well.”
Klain stressed that part of being the top White House staffer is acting as “the heavy” for the president and being able to do what it takes to see the president’s agenda become law.
“Part of your job as White House chief of staff is to be the heavy,” Klain said. “Part of your job as White House chief of staff is to be the person who sometimes takes the incoming.”
Manchin was a repeated obstacle to Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda and it appeared that their differences would result in only limited legislation. Instead, the West Virginian shocked Washington by reaching an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on an estimated $740 billion package known as the “Inflation Reduction Act.” Biden signed the legislation into law earlier this week.
Last December, Manchin told Fox News that he was at his “wit’s end” with Biden’s staff after they put out something that was “absolutely inexcusable.” Steve Clemmons, a long-time close ally of Manchin, later wrote the senator was infuriated by a White House statement that blamed him for a delay in negotiations.
As Biden’s first year in the White House drew to a close, Manchin reportedly vented that Klain was the source of many of his problems.
“Manchin has told allies that he believes Klain has pushed Biden to embrace a more liberal policy agenda, adding that Klain must repair the relationship with him if the chief of staff is to be involved in future negotiations,” The Post reported in January.
Klain didn’t mention the news reporting about his relationship with Manchin directly, but he said the White House made a conscious decision to defer economic talks to Congress. Schumer and Manchin then negotiated for months before they announced their deal.
“When you negotiate at the White House, the negotiations are very high profile and put a lot of pressure on everyone involved, and kind of create a lot of breadcrumbs for the press to follow,” Klain told Politico. “One thing we wanted to do was to take the temperature down on these negotiations and have them conducted in a more low-key way.”
At the very least, things appear to be better between the two Joes: Manchin and Biden. A spokesperson for Manchin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As he signed the act into law, Biden told Manchin that he “never had a doubt” a deal would come to fruition. The president then gave Manchin the pen he used to sign the bill into law, a historic memento that is usually highly sought after for major pieces of legislation.