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Manchin draws red line in infrastructure talks

The Hill logo The Hill 7/13/2021 Jordain Carney
Joe Manchin, Cindy Daniel are posing for a picture: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks to reporters as he leaves a bipartisan meeting to discuss an infrastructure deal on June 21 © Greg Nash Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks to reporters as he leaves a bipartisan meeting to discuss an infrastructure deal on June 21

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) warned on Tuesday that he wants both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a separate Democratic-only bill to be fully paid for.

"I think everything should be paid for. We've put enough free money out," Manchin told reporters.

Manchin's demand, if he sticks to it, could create real problems in Democratic negotiations.

The party in a matter of weeks is seeking to exercise a complicated legislative goal of winning Senate approval of both a bipartisan infrastructure measure opposed by many progressives and a budget resolution that will tee up a larger Democratic bill filled with spending priorities. The latter bill will not win any GOP support and will need to pass with just Democratic votes, including Manchin's.

A group of 22 senators, including Manchin, agreed to a framework for a bipartisan infrastructure deal that would spend $1.2 trillion over eight years. But there are concerns among Republicans that the bill isn't fully paid for, threatening GOP support for it.

Republican negotiators in the group have warned that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could lowball the amount of revenue the proposal will raise.

"I know there are some things that we're relying on as pay-fors that will probably not receive a CBO score but nonetheless are real," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to agree to a price tag for their larger bill.

In order to pass the reconciliation bill, Democrats will have to have total unity from all 50 of their members for a budget resolution, which would include the top-line figure and instructions for the Democratic-only bill, and the subsequent infrastructure bill itself. The measure under Senate rules cannot be filibustered, meaning the GOP can't block it.

Democrats have yet to agree on a top-line figure. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) met with Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee on Monday night but didn't get an agreement. They'll meet again on Tuesday night.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has thrown out $6 trillion, paying for roughly half, as where he would like to go on the Democratic-only bill.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the panel, has suggested he's closer to roughly $4 trillion.

Manchin has acknowledged that a Democratic-only bill is "inevitable" but hasn't committed to a specific top-line figure. He's warned, though, that he doesn't want to go as high as Sanders.

"I want to make sure we pay for it. I do not want to add more debt on. So if that's $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion, whatever that comes out to be over a 10 year period, that's what I would be voting for," Manchin told ABC News last month.


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