Fresh off the passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID “relief” measure using parliamentary procedures without Republican support, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are talking about doing the same thing again with an even more expensive $3 trillion “infrastructure” spending package.
That is unlikely to occur, however, if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has anything to say about it. According to Fox News, the West Virginia senator defiantly bucked his party on three major points — a demand that Republicans be included in legislative negotiations, that the new spending be paid for instead of borrowed, and that the longstanding filibuster threshold of 60 votes for Senate passage of bills be maintained.
Manchin stands in the way
In early March, Fox News reported that Manchin vowed to vote against any proposed infrastructure package if fellow Democrats chose to force such legislation through Congress without any input or support from their GOP colleagues.
That placed him in direct opposition to ideas favored by an overwhelming majority of his party — use of the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes, as well as abolishing the filibuster and its 60-vote threshold.
“I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority,” Manchin said at the time, Axios reported.
“I’m not going to change my mind on the filibuster,” the senator emphasized. “I’ll change my mind if we need to go to a reconciliation, to where we have to get something done … But I’m not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also.”
He further noted that the reconciliation process should be unnecessary if the Senate adhered to the normal bill-crafting process of committee hearings and amendments, which would inherently include Republicans.
Tax increases to offset new spending
This past week, Manchin expressed his support for tying massive tax increases to proposed infrastructure spending as a means of paying for it without increasing the national debt, NBC News reported.
That creates a dilemma for Manchin’s fellow Democrats, however.
While most would typically support tax increases, several Democrats are reportedly skittish to do so at this time, given the state of the economy following the coronavirus pandemic response and the fact that Republicans will seize upon Democratic tax increases as a political cudgel in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, according to The Hill.
The Hill also noted that the proposed infrastructure package, which initially included about $3 trillion in spending and $1 trillion in new taxes, has already ballooned to more than $4 trillion in spending and upwards of $3.5 trillion in new taxes.
Meanwhile, according to a recent report from The New York Times, Manchin has held firm on his insistence that the filibuster remain in place, that the GOP be included in negotiations on the infrastructure package, and that the reconciliation process be avoided if at all possible.