King Joseph: Not so fast on that infrastructure plan, buddy

(AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar “infrastructure” bill is looking increasingly like a non-starter in the Senate this week. And as usual, the fly in the ointment is West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. While Chuck Schumer and his allies continue their plans to try to jam the bill through on a party-line vote via the reconciliation process, King Joseph has been huddling with some of the more moderate Republicans and talking about a considerably more modest bill that is actually confined to real infrastructure projects, coming in with a price tag somewhere between $600 billion and one trillion dollars. I’m not sure when we reached the point where “only one trillion dollars” became an accepted part of our language, but here we are. The point is, if Manchin can’t be moved away from his recent call to “show we can work in a bipartisan way,” reconciliation may be off the table entirely unless there are a couple of GOP defectors. On top of that, Manchin is at least suggesting that he’s unlikely to be onboard with a huge hike in the corporate tax rate to pay for all of this. (The Hill)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is emerging as the chief obstacle to quick passage of President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure package that Democrats want to move through Congress sooner rather than later.

Manchin is ramping up discussions with Republicans about what a scaled-down infrastructure package should look like, and some GOP senators are even optimistic that the moderate Democrat can be persuaded to block efforts to raise the corporate tax rate.

That means Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will likely have to wait for the negotiations to reach some kind of conclusion before moving ahead with the budget reconciliation process, as Manchin is expected to be the critical 50th Democratic vote needed to avoid a GOP filibuster.

Manchin is committing the cardinal sin among his caucus of saying things that are obviously true but currently unpopular. He said this weekend that the final infrastructure bill should be focused on “conventional infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, water projects and expanded broadband internet.” What kind of crazy talk is that, sir? You clearly didn’t get the Schumer-Pelosi memo explaining that everything is infrastructure. Even people are infrastructure.

The top people in the Democratic leadership are starting to sound a bit panicky. Dick Durbin, Bernie Sanders, and Schumer are talking about how they are “running out of time” to get Biden’s entire infrastructure bill passed. Seriously? It’s April of Biden’s first year in office. How are you running out of time to pass a spending bill? Even if you’re assuming that you’re going to lose your majority in the midterms (not an unreasonable fear at all considering how the Democrats are governing so far), you’ve still got twenty months left on the calendar.

Durbin is citing all of the other things the Democrats need to get done as the reason for haste. He mentioned both immigration and police “reform.” I’m not sure if these people are simply ignoring the polls or living in some alternate version of reality, but neither of those packages are winners with the voters either. Frankly, I would give both amnesty for illegal aliens and putting limits on the enforcement capabilities of police from the federal level even less of a shot at passage than this spending bill.

As we discussed here previously, the one path that may still be open to the Democrats is to take the GOP compromise bill that focuses on actual infrastructure and pass that, splitting off all of the other Democratic wishlist items into a separate package. Even if the second blast of spending doesn’t pass, they could at least chalk up one win for Biden and accomplish some things that are legitimate uses of taxpayer dollars. Alternately, they can stick to their guns and try to find something to bribe Manchin with to win over his vote or possibly come up with some pork to flip Susan Collins, if not both. I won’t be shocked if they go with the latter plan.