Hoo boy: I'm hoping for an "enormous" infrastructure package, says Joe Manchin -- and maybe we'll have a VAT to help pay for it

I’d been idly hoping that the sticker shock of what Biden wants, upwards of $3 trillion, would scare Manchin away or at least lead him to give the infrastructure bill a serious haircut. (A shaved head, really.) He bid his party down a bit, although only a bit, on elements of the COVID relief bill so one would think that a new package that would spend a trillion dollars more than that bill did might freak him out.

Not so. It sounds like he’s ready for a blockbuster, and for the tax hikes that’ll pay for it.

Which leads to two assumptions. One: There’ll be a lot of candy for West Virginia in this infrastructure bill. And two: Manchin’s probably going to disappoint the left on H.R. 1 and gun control and may be calculating that this is a way to make it up to them. If he can’t give them what they want culturally because his red state’s majority won’t tolerate it, he can at least give them what they want economically.

“I’m sure of one thing: It’s going to be enormous,” the West Virginia Democrat, who is seen as a swing vote in a chamber divided 50-50, told reporters at the Capitol.

While he didn’t predict a price tag, Manchin said Congress should do “everything we possibly can” to pay for it. He said there should be “tax adjustments” to former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law to boost revenues, including by raising the corporate rate from the current 21 percent to at least 25 percent.

Some of the tax benefits in the Republican law were “weighted in one direction” and could be reversed, Manchin said. He also suggested an “infrastructure bank” paid for with revenues, potentially a value-added tax, that would be used for “rebuilding America.”…

“Where do they think it’s going to come from?” he asked. “How are you going to fix America?”

We’re going to get a VAT on top of our federal income tax? What happened to letting the rich pay for all of this?

Why, it’s enough to make me wonder if progressive assurances that the rich can foot the entire bill for their agenda aren’t true after all.

The fact that he’s demanding tax increases to help pay for the bill is ominous not just on the merits but as a “tell” that he must be open to passing this bill via reconciliation. If there was even a faint chance of getting 10 Republican votes for spending this gigantic, there won’t be once it’s official that new taxes are part of the mix. That’s another way in which Manchin is looking to appease the left — he’s under heavy pressure from progressives right now to jettison the filibuster so that they can pass the non-fiscal parts of their program. Rachel Maddow laid him out last night on MSNBC for roadblocking gun control:

Lefty groups are running donation drives at ActBlue asking for money to hold Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema accountable for not relenting on the filibuster. “The filibuster is a mechanism of white supremacy and one of the many systemic footprints of the Jim Crow era,” asks one plea for cash. “As long as Sens Manchin (WV) and Sinema (AZ) refuse to reform or abolish it, Mitch McConnell has ultimate veto power.” Unless and until Manchin figures out a way to use 50 votes to pass H.R. 1 — a bill he’s not currently sponsoring and probably can’t support given the intense pushback from officials in his state — or the House’s gun-control legislation, he’ll be viewed as an enemy by the left.

Unless, that is, he can buy some goodwill from them by cutting them a $3 trillion check instead. And by showing them in the process that he’s willing to use reconciliation repeatedly to pass important economic legislation.

Unfortunately for him, Chuck Schumer’s facing his own electoral pressures in New York and will try to impress progressives there by at least forcing a vote on the House’s gun-control bills. That will further concentrate lefty ire on Manchin, not just because he’s prepared to let Republicans block those bills but because he’s against them himself:

In lieu of an exit question, read Philip Klein on how Biden’s team has given up any pretense of caring about the growing national debt. Obama at least made noises to that effect. Biden can’t be bothered. Partly that’s because the left has gained in influence over the past 10 years and partly it’s due to Democratic disgruntlement at the fact that Republicans gave up caring about deficits once they were back in power. If the GOP’s concerns about debt are in bad faith, why should Dems take them into consideration in shaping their bills? Even the reddest red-state Dem, Joe Manchin, won’t blink at $3 trillion in new spending on top of $2 trillion now. God help us all.