Senate

Manchin rebuffs progressive push for infrastructure guarantee

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday said he will not guarantee he'll support a fast-track process for a sweeping infrastructure package, rejecting a key demand by progressive senators who want such a pledge in order to support a smaller bipartisan deal.  

Manchin stressed he hasn't decided whether he'll support reconciliation, a process that will let Democrats bypass the 60-vote filibuster, for a massive infrastructure package. But rejected the notion of horse-trading his vote in advance. 

"I would never ask any of my colleagues for an iron-clad commitment ... and I expect the same from them," Manchin said, asked about the push from his progressive colleagues for an iron-clad guarantee. 

Pressed if he was saying he couldn't commit to supporting reconciliation in exchange for votes on the smaller bipartisan package, Manchin added: "No, I don't think that's fair."  

Manchin's position is unlikely to satisfy most of his Democratic colleagues, who are running out of patience with the months-long attempt to find a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure - first between Republicans and the White House and now amid a group of roughly 10 senators.  

The bipartisan framework, that is roughly $1.2 trillion, has already sparked opposition from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has said he will vote against it. 

Other Democrats are pushing for a locked-in guarantee from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) that in exchange for supporting their bipartisan package, the two moderates would provide the votes to unlock reconciliation and ultimately pass a second, larger infrastructure package, expected to be in the range of multi-trillions, with only Democratic votes. 

"I would support something like this bipartisan plan only, and I stress only, if we had an iron-clad commitment to do another package ... and guarantee 50 Democratic votes," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). 

To pass the bulk of Biden's infrastructure plan through reconciliation, Democrats will need the full support of their 50 member caucus as well as Vice President Kamala Harris. Manchin reiterated on Wednesday that he has not made a decision about how he'll vote on the budget resolution setting up the Democratic-only bill. 

Manchin, however, rejected the idea that he should be willing to lock himself in, adding that if Democrats don't support the bipartisan proposal, which is more focused on "hard" infrastructure like roads, bridges and broadband, they shouldn't support it. 

"If they don't like it, they should vote against it," Manchin said. "That should not be conditional." 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), trying to contain growing restlessness within his caucus, is vowing to move forward with both paths, for now. He'll meet with Sanders and other Senate Budget Committee Democrats on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the next steps on reconciliation. 

"The first track is bipartisan, and I understand there has been some progress. The second track pulls in elements of President Biden's American Jobs and Families Plan, and will be considered by the Senate even if it does not have bipartisan support," he said on Wednesday. 

"Today, we are going to start moving the trains down the second track," he added.

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