Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday he’s open to the $3.5 trillion spending agreement reached by Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, which would be entirely paid for with yet to be specified tax measures, but he’s holding back on fully endorsing the deal until further review.
Manchin’s cautious optimism about the agreement means that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) two-track strategy for moving President Biden’s infrastructure agenda is still moving in the right direction.
“I heard about it this morning or late last night from my staff,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday. “So, we’re anxious to basically review it. They worked hard on it, we want to see it. Also, I’ve been very clear that I want to see the pay-fors and make sure that whatever we do is globally competitive.”
“I’m open to looking at everything they provide. OK? They’re going to have to provide all the information that’s going to be needed,” he added. “They worked hard, they should have a proposal.”
Manchin said he looked forward to hearing from Biden, who is scheduled to meet with Democrats Wednesday to discuss a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal endorsed by the White House as well as the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan.
“The president is going to come today and explain. We’ll listen to that, we’ll look at the proposal, look at the priorities they have for our country and then basically look at how we’re going to pay for it,” he said.
Manchin, who previously has said he does not support raising the corporate tax to 28 percent, a proposal in Biden’s budget, raised concerns about the potential impact of corporate tax changes on the competitiveness of U.S.-based companies globally.
He said he wants to know if the tax adjustments are going to be “globally competitive.”
He also reiterated the importance of paying for Biden’s infrastructure agenda.
“The American people, we have a debt of $28.5 trillion right now, we have indications of inflation spiking,” he said. “What’s going to happen the generation coming after us if we don’t have some kind of controls or some, basically, brakes on different things. So I’m looking at everything in a holistic way.”
Asked if he supports expanding Medicare to cover vision, hearing and dental care, Manchin said, “Dental is a very important part of a person’s health.”
He proposed lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes, which is set at $142,800 for 2021.
Asked if he supports a wealth surcharge tax, Manchin said, “I’m going to evaluate everything they put forward.”
Progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and her allies have proposed a 2 percent annual tax on households with a net worth of between $50 billion and $1 billion and a 1 percent annual surtax on households and trusts worth more than $1 billion. It would raise an estimated $3 trillion over 10 years.
Other Democratic centrists say they will take a close look at the $3.5 trillion agreement before agreeing to back it.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told reporters Tuesday that it will take him some time to weigh such a large number.
“I don’t have any information, so it’s going to take me a bit to sort through that. I’m not saying no, but I’m not saying yes either. So it’s going to take a little bit, $3.5 trillion is a shit-pile of dough,” he said.