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Joe Manchin now backs bid to bypass Republicans on Biden’s ‘human’ infrastructure bill

Senator Joe Manchin, a key moderate Democrat, said Wednesday he was open to passing a major reconciliation bill on infrastructure without Republican support, a process the White House is considering should negotiations with Republicans fall apart.

Manchin is one of 21 senators working on an $1.2 trillion bipartisan plan to rebuild roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure.

However, he suggested he was open to passing a bigger package without Republican support, a pronouncement that came ahead of Wednesday’s negotiations between White House staff and the lawmakers. 

President Joe Biden would need Manchin’s vote if he wanted to pass his infrastructure proposals through a process known as reconciliation, which allows the Senate to bypass its usual 60-vote threshold to advance legislation. In the 50-50 Senate, Biden can’t lose a single member of his party.

Manchin offered words of hope to the White House when he said he was open to passing Biden’s ‘human’ infrastructure plan without Republican support.

And he suggested he supported reversing some of the tax cuts made under Donald Trump, an option Biden wants to use to pay for his American Families Plan, which includes those ‘human’ infrastructure items: free community college, universal preschool and a comprehensive, nationwide paid leave program. 

‘I’ve come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it’s money matters,’ Manchin told NBC News, calling for bolstering ‘human infrastructure.’

He also said some of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts should be reversed.  

‘Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it,’ Manchin said. ‘I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.’

Senator Joe Manchin, a key moderate Democrat, said he was open to passing a major reconciliation bill on infrastructure without Republican support

The White House has been on a two-track strategy when it comes to infrastructure.

The first track involves White House staff negotiating with Republicans on a deal involving traditional infrastructure items. A ‘human’ infrastructure package would come separately. 

The second track would see infrastructure pass through reconciliation – and therefore without any GOP support. It would include traditional items and the ‘human’ infrastructure items that Republicans object to but liberal Democrats are demanding.

‘We’ve been saying two tracks,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. ‘Today is an example of two tracks actually moving forward at one time and one day.’

‘They’re both moving at a rapid pace,’ she said when asked which was moving faster.

‘We’re at a later stage, obviously in the bipartisan negotiations, you all know that, and obviously we want to make progress over the next couple of days,’ she added. ‘We’re in an earlier stage of the budget reconciliation progress process. That’s because that’s how that process works, but it’s important to keep both tracks going.’

White House officials will set down with nine Democrats, one independent and 11 Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, before meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this evening.

The target date for a deal is said to be Thursday evening. 

A sticking point is how to pay for a bipartisan plan. 

Biden wants to increase taxes for corporations and those households making more than $400,000 a year. 

Republicans want to increase the user fee that has traditionally funded road and bridge construction – the federal gas tax. The federal gas tax has not increased since 1993. 

Biden is arguing against the gas tax, claiming it will go against his pledge not to increase taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year. Republicans, meanwhile are determined to protect Trump’s 2017 cut in corporate taxes.

‘The bottom line it’s it’s pretty clear and simple to the president, the choice for him on the pay fors is are you going to ask Americans who are just trying to go to work, just trying to drive their cars to work, drop their kids off at school, to pay more, through a gas tax, or should the wealthiest Americans pay what they owe in taxes? To him, that’s a pretty clear, no brainer choice,’ Psaki said. 

President Joe Biden

Donald Trump

Senator Joe Manchin gave words of hope to President Joe Biden with his signal he was open to passing a major infrastructure deal without Republicans and that he supported repealing part of Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts

Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders said that liberals in the Democratic Party would not support a bipartisan infrastructure deal without a guarantee that a separate Democrats-only package could also move forward

Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders said that liberals in the Democratic Party would not support a bipartisan infrastructure deal without a guarantee that a separate Democrats-only package could also move forward

The White House has been playing both sides, trying to get moderate lawmakers in both parties to agree on a general infrastructure plan – which would give them a bipartisan win – while assuring progressive Democrats the rest of their agenda can be taken care of without a GOP filibuster.

The filibuster refers to the 60-vote threshold required to move legislation forward in the Senate. 

There are ways to get around the filibuster in the Senate through a process called budget reconciliation – which requires just 51 votes to advance legislation. But the legislation in question must deal with some budget-related matter. 

Senate Democrats used it to Biden’s advantage in March to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package when all Republicans voted no.  

Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders said that liberals in the Democratic Party would not support a bipartisan deal without a guarantee that a separate Democrats-only package could also move forward.

‘There cannot be a bipartisan bill which only deals with physical infrastructure unless it’s very clear that there’s going to be a major reconciliation bill which deals with the needs of working families, climate change and progressive tax reform,’ he told reporters. ‘And I think we can, we can make that happen. It’s going to be either both or nothing.’  


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