Manchin Not Ready to Back Partisan Passage of Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
June 4, 2021 Updated: June 4, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is not at the point where he’d back a Democrat push to pass an infrastructure proposal with no Republican support.

“We need to do something in a bipartisan way,” Manchin told a reporter in West Virginia. “We can’t continue on these types of projects, because we were able to bring everything to fruition working through a bipartisan way [before]. Republicans didn’t get everything they wanted last time, as you recall. And basically, we’re not going to get everything, but we can move forward and the president has that desire and the urgency to get something big done.”

Pressed on whether Democrats should withdraw from negotiations and move forward by utilizing a tactic called reconciliation, which would enable them to pass a bill with no Republican support, Manchin echoed a theme he’s often turned to in recent months.

“This is the United States Senate—the most deliberate body in the world, and it was by design. And these take time,” he said. “I know, everyone’s in a hurry right now, [but] if anyone understands the process, it’s President Joe Biden, with 36 years of experience or more here, he understands and gets it well. I hope his staff understands also what we’re trying to do.

“We’ve got to bring our country together, we can’t continue to split and go further apart. We just can’t do that. And we’ve got to work together, and that takes a lot of time and energy and patience,” he added.

In an interview with another reporter, Manchin said that he does not think Democrats should try to ram through another package, like they did with a COVID-19 relief bill earlier this year.

The upper chamber is currently split evenly between Republicans and Democrats or nominal independents who regularly vote with Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, can cast tiebreaking votes. But unless reconciliation is used, Democrats need to get at least 10 Republicans on board with whatever they want to pass.

moore capito
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R-W.Va.) listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 20, 2020. (Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images)

Republican senators, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), have been negotiating with Biden and his team on infrastructure. The latest GOP proposal came in at $928 billion; the most recent Biden plan runs $1.7 trillion.

Some Senate Democrats have increasingly called for party leaders to shelve negotiations and move forward without the GOP.

“If Republicans don’t want to cooperate and help us seriously address the many crises we’re facing today, then, yes, we have to move forward without them to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of good-paying, union jobs,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described Democratic socialist who has twice run for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on CNN this week.

“Republican infrastructure counteroffers so far have not been serious, good-faith attempts to confront the crises facing our country,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote in a tweet. “This moment demands we go big and bold. The American people don’t have time for Republican games.”

Colleagues in the lower chamber have also pushed for action.

“We’ve seen this movie before. Republicans will ask for concession after concession, and STILL not vote for the watered-down bill they demanded. Let’s learn from history,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said this week. “It’s time for us to go big, bold, and on our own on infrastructure. Let’s deliver for the people.”

Still, the Democrats’ majority in the upper chamber is so slim that a single senator can hold up a bill if the party does utilize reconciliation.

Capito and Biden planned to speak again on Friday. Capito is slated to report to a group of 20 senators, featuring a number of moderates, next week, according to Manchin.

“She’s doing a great job out there trying to find that sweet spot,” he said.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.