Sanders Planning on Passing Infrastructure Bill Without Republican Support

March 16, 2021 Updated: March 16, 2021

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is planning on attempting to pass an infrastructure bill by using a budget process to cut out Republicans, even though several Democrat senators have said they won’t support utilizing the method.

“One always wants to try to go a bipartisan route. But what I have seen this year and in past years is that if we want to do something significant, it is very hard to get Republican support. So the devil is of course in the details,” Sanders, a former Democrat presidential candidate, told reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.

“If Republicans are prepared to support a significant and important piece of legislation that deals with climate change, deals with infrastructure, that’s great. My own feeling is at this point I doubt that that will be the case,” he added when reporters noted Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have indicated opposition to using reconciliation to pass another measure.

When asked if he was intending to use reconciliation on such a package, he answered, “Yes.”

Congressional Democrats used the budget process to pass the COVID-19 relief package with zero Republican votes. The major reason to turn to the method is to lower the threshold required in the upper chamber from 60 to 50.

The current Senate makeup is 50-50, when Sanders and fellow nominal independent Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) are grouped with Democrats. Both largely align with the party.

Responding to Sanders’s remarks, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters in a press conference on Capitol Hill that Democrats will use infrastructure as a Trojan horse.

“Inside the Trojan horse will be all the tax increases that [Republicans] have been talking about,” he said. “They want to raise taxes across the board. And the only way I think they could pull that off, would be through a reconciliation process. They have one more of those available to them, and my suspicion is they will try to jam everything they can into that bill and call it an infrastructure bill.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters separately that “there are many things we can’t do by reconciliation” as he urged Republicans to work together with Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week directed key committee chairs to start drafting an infrastructure package, saying it would be “big, bold, and transformational.”

Democrats have avoided publicly attaching a price tag to the proposal amid concerns of how to pay for it.

President Joe Biden pledged during the 2020 campaign to invest $2 trillion in infrastructure, including for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

One potential funding mechanism that has been put forward is a wealth tax.

Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that “it’s a little bit too early” to outline how the legislation would be funded.

Manchin is planning to meet with a bipartisan group of senators for lunch on Wednesday to talk. They will probably discuss infrastructure, he said.

According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, there is no infrastructure package yet. “I know there’s lots of conversations in Congress, and we’re certainly working very closely with them in consultations,” she told reporters on Monday.

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report. 

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