Ahead of President Joe Biden’s first congressional address on Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)—a moderate lawmaker whose support is crucial for Democratic legislation in the evenly split Senate—insisted he is not a roadblock to the president’s ambitious $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal while blasting the tax hikes proposed to pay for the package and instead calling Republicans’ counterproposal a “good start.”
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, Manchin insisted he wants a bipartisan proposal that’s “more targeted” toward traditional infrastructure—like roads, bridges and electric grids—than Biden’s package.
Though he rejected the notion that he wants a “smaller” package, Manchin did say he’s “very much concerned” about the “human infrastructure” provisions for things like childcare and healthcare in Biden’s proposal given that the federal government has already authorized “an awful lot” of spending with the roughly $5 trillion in Covid relief approved thus far.
Instead, Manchin said he’s “glad” Republicans released a $568 billion counterproposal Thursday focused on conventional infrastructure (roughly 25% of Biden’s proposed spending), calling it “a starting point and not the finishing line” while touting its bipartisan support from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who Manchin says worked with Republicans on the package.
Manchin also voiced opposition to Biden’s proposed tax hikes on wealthy Americans, saying he doesn’t support “raising taxes for the sake of raising taxes” and that lawmakers should instead aim to help the Internal Revenue Service collect as much of the up to $1 trillion in taxes that reportedly go uncollected each year.
Adding even more uncertainty to Biden’s infrastructure ambitions, Manchin doubled-down on his support for the filibuster, which could allow Republicans to block a vote on the package, and said he would not support passing the bill through reconciliation, the special budgetary process that allowed Democrats to bypass Republican support in the latest package.
Meanwhile, on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he thinks the Senate could muster up bipartisan support for a stimulus measure worth between $800 billion and $900 billion—still less than half of Biden’s proposed spending.
“I’m not going to be part of blowing up this Senate of ours, or basically this democracy of ours or the Republic that we have in the Senate,” Manchin said of his support for the filibuster, which is a tactic that can be employed in the Senate to prevent a vote on a proposal unless 60 Senators vote against it. “The House was designed to be partisan… to be hot as a fire. We were designed to cool off, and that’s brilliant. Why can’t we try to make this work?”
According to a Fox News poll released Sunday morning, a majority of Americans said they support Biden’s proposed tax increases on families earning over $400,000 annually (63%) and corporations (56%) to pay for the infrastructure plan, which about 49% of respondents said they support.
What To Watch For
At his congressional address on Thursday, Biden is expected to make the case for his $2.3 trillion stimulus plan, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she wants to pass in the lower chamber by July 4.
Setting the tone for bitter negotiations in both chambers of Congress, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the start of Biden’s presidency has been “bait and switch” on Sunday. “The bait was he was going to govern as bipartisan, but the switch is he’s governed as a socialist,” McCarthy said. “If you’re looking at infrastructure, it’s the same as the coronavirus—less than 9% went to the virus, and less than 6% in infrastructure goes to infrastructure.”
Released at the end of last month, Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes about $380 billion in proposed spending for the nation’s electric grid, roads, bridges, public transit and freight rail services, but it also includes things like $174 billion in proposed investments for the electric-vehicle market and $213 billion to create more than 2 million affordable homes and office buildings that are equipped with sustainable energy. Republicans quickly pushed back on the latter provisions and are also against the proposed tax hikes that Biden wants to fund the spending, and Manchin has previously said that about 6 or 7 Democrats “feel strongly” that Biden’s proposed 28% corporate tax rate is too high. The president has suggested he could negotiate the rate, but it’s still unclear how everything will pan out in Congress.