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Why Patty Murray is irate at Joe Manchin

CNN logo CNN 10/28/2021 Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) listens to testimony during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill November 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) listens to testimony during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill November 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Even in this white-hot partisan moment, the Senate is a pretty genteel place. Senators view themselves as part of a very elite club -- and tend to treat fellow members with kid gloves.

Which is why what Washington Sen. Patty Murray (D) said on Wednesday about fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin all the more eye-opening about the current state of affairs in the world's greatest deliberative body.

"We're not going to let one man tell all the women in this country that they can't have paid leave," Murray said.

What she was referring to was the apparent decision by the White House and congressional negotiators to drop a provision in President Joe Biden's social safety net legislation that would offer four weeks of paid family and medical leave to all Americans.

The provision was -- and is -- considered absolutely essential to many liberals who note that America is one of only six countries in the world without some sort of national paid leave program.

But Manchin seemed to nix it on Wednesday. "I just can't do it," he said of supporting paid leave. "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. 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."

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a prominent voice in the Senate in favor of the measure, insisted that she would continue the fight. "I'm not giving up and I'm not going to give up until the deal is signed," she said Wednesday.

Which, well, maybe.

The rancor directed at Manchin by Murray stands in stark contrast to the way Biden has approached the moderate senator from West Virginia. Biden has been very careful not to name-call or express any public frustration with Manchin or Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has also been resistant to the hefty price tag that the social safety net measure carries. At a CNN town hall last week, Biden was positive about Manchin, arguing that he's "not a bad guy. He's a friend."

Murray took a different tack on Wednesday, the latest sign that his colleagues -- especially those on the liberal left -- are getting fed up with Manchin and his likes and dislikes when it comes to the domestic spending plan in Congress.

That said, it's not clear whether Murray's frustration will, well, do anything. Manchin represents a state Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in 2020 and being regarded by liberals as too conservative is good for his politics back home. Plus, the White House badly needs Manchin's vote, with Democrats only controlling 50 votes in the Senate they can't afford to lose even a single one if they want to find a way to get this measure and Biden's $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure plan passed -- and soon.

What is clear is that things are getting very heated on Capitol Hill. And most of that heat is directed at Manchin.

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