WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin cast doubt on the timeline for pushing President Joe Biden’s economic agenda through Congress, suggesting that a late September target for a House vote on infrastructure spending is unrealistic.
Manchin, a Democrat whose vote is crucial in the evenly split U.S. Senate, renewed his objections to a $3.5 trillion plan that includes tax hikes and increases in social spending. He said he can’t support the price tag, doesn’t see the urgency and is concerned about inflation and the impact of higher corporate taxes on U.S. competitiveness.
With House Democrats seeking to move the package forward in tandem with a bipartisan $550 billion infrastructure bill that the Senate has passed, the West Virginia senator said he doesn’t see the lower chamber meeting a Sept. 27 deadline by Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a vote on the infrastructure plan.
“There’s no way we can get this done by the 27th — if we do our jobs,” Manchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “There’s so much differences that we have here.”
Pelosi’s deadline is putting pressure on Democratic lawmakers to work out policy details to underpin the $3.5 trillion plan. Some of the divisions were on display in dueling interviews by Manchin and Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders on the Sunday political shows.
Manchin floated a roughly $1.5 trillion headline number on CNN for the larger budget bill, which Democrats want to pass without Republican support.
“No, it’s absolutely not acceptable to me” to cut the $3.5 trillion plan, Sanders, I-Vt., said in response.
Sanders said on ABC that Manchin digging in his heels threatens to kill both the reconciliation bill and the infrastructure measure that progressives want linked with it. But Manchin said on CNN, “Who’s digging in the heels here?”
“No one is talking about inflation or debt and we should have that as part of the discussion,” he said. “The emergency to do something in the next week is not there. We’ve done $5.4 trillion over the last year and about a year and a half. A lot of that money is still going out the door.”
It’s the infrastructure spending “that has the urgency,” Manchin said.
Sanders countered that there’s “a real danger the infrastructure bill will fail in the House because you’ve got many people there — and I support them — who say, ‘you know what, we had a joint agreement.’” Still, he said “I think we’re going to work it out.”
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