- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin III said Sunday he was open to repealing Trump-era tax cuts to pay for a social spending bill that progressives want in exchange for their support on infrastructure.

Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, explained the strategy during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We have two tracks and that’s exactly what I believe is going to happen,” he said. “We’ve worked on the one track, we’re going to work on the second track, there’s an awful lot of need.”

Last week, President Biden and a group of 11 bipartisan lawmakers, including Mr. Manchin, announced a deal on the nation’s largest infrastructure package. The compromise, which took months to fashion, would spend upwards of $1.2 trillion on upgrading the country’s transportation systems.

To the chagrin of the progressive Democrats, however, the spending focuses exclusively on traditional infrastructure, like roads and bridges. Many on the left are pushing for a big-spending package that includes “human infrastructure,” such as job training for felons and money to combat climate change.

As such, progressives are threatening to withhold support for the bipartisan deal if it is not linked to a big-spending “human infrastructure” package.

Since such a package cannot garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, many on the left are demanding it pass via budget reconciliation. The process allows spending bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes.

For reconciliation to succeed, though, all 50 Democrats will have to stand united in the evenly split Senate. This means that moderates like Mr. Manchin will be key.

On Sunday, the senator signaled a smaller reconciliation package focusing on workforce development and child care could garner his support.

“There’s a lot of need out there, whether it be child tax credits … helping those kids have a start in life, whether it be fixing a lot of the human infrastructure that has fallen by the wayside,” Mr. Manchin said. “You know, helping middle-class hardworking people have a chance to get ahead and enjoy the American dream.”

Another provision for securing Mr. Manchin’s support will be if the reconciliation bill can be paid for without relying on deficit spending or adding further to the national debt.

“I want to make sure we pay for it, I do not want to add more debt,” he said. “So if that’s one trillion, or one and a half or two trillion, whatever that comes out to be over a 10-year period. That’s what I would be voting for.”

Mr. Manchin suggested one clear way to ensure the “human infrastructure” component was paid for was by raising taxes through repealing former President Donald Trump’s signature tax law.

“I didn’t vote for the 2017 tax cuts under President Trump,” said Mr. Manchin. “I thought they were weighed in too much towards the high end, if you will, I think we need to make some adjustments.”

It is unclear though whether progressive Democrats would settle for such a compromise. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, has pitched a reconciliation bill with a price tag of upwards of $6 trillion.

Some like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, are eyeing big investment in climate change and more punitive hikes in corporate and income taxes.

“I can’t vote for some small subset that … the infrastructure train leaves the station and child care gets left on the platform, green-energy gets left on the platform [and] billionaires don’t have to pay,” Ms. Warren said Wednesday during an appearance on MSNBC.

Complicating matters is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already has vowed not to move the bipartisan infrastructure package until the Senate passes a reconciliation bill.

As speaker, the California Democrat has nearly sole authority of what legislation comes to the floor and any reconciliation bill will have to garner her approval first.

“There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill passed by the Senate,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Republicans have expressed frustration with the Democrats’ disunity, especially the attempt by progressives to hold infrastructure hostage.

“This is a bill, which stands on its own, I am totally confident the president will sign it if it comes to his desk,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said Sunday during an appearance on CNN. “The real challenge is whether the Democrats can get their act together and get it on his desk.”

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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