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Capito, Manchin Discuss Upcoming Action on Infrastructure, Budget

FILE - In this April 16, 2020, file photo work continues on a bridge on the Interstate Highway 75 project in Troy, Mich. Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, President Joe Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another of his top legislative priorities — a long-sought boost to the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could meet GOP resistance to a hefty price tag. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

CHARLESTON — Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate set this coming Monday for moving both a bipartisan infrastructure package and a Wednesday deadline for a budget reconciliation package that will likely only have Democratic support.

According to Politico, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Thursday that he would hold a cloture vote Monday on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework with the goal of voting for the package Wednesday.

Senators still negotiating parts of the deal — specifically how to pay for the $1.2 trillion package, missed a self-imposed Thursday deadline to come to an agreement. Proposed financing sources include increased IRS enforcement of back taxes owed, unused COVID-19 relief dollars, savings from states canceling their federal pandemic unemployment insurance programs, and other fees.

The framework includes $579 billion in new infrastructure spending for roads and bridges, highway safety, public transportation, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, airports, and ports and waterways. It also includes funding for water infrastructure, broadband expansion, environmental remediation, power grid resiliency, and western water storage. The total cost is $1.2 trillion spread out over eight years.

The BIF — a combination of the American Jobs Plan presented by President Joe Biden and negotiations with a bipartisan group of Senate Republicans and Democrats — is based partly on negotiations started in April between the White House and led by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. She said she’d still like to see the bill text and the final pay-fors before expressing full support.

“The bipartisan bill is very similar to the bill I put forward to the President, so there are many things in there I support,” Capito, R-W.Va., said Thursday in a briefing with state reporters. “The problem for me right now is the devil is in the details. I haven’t seen how this is written.”

While negotiations on the framework continue, Schumer also set a deadline for next Wednesday for the Senate Budget Committee to draft a resolution on a $3.5 trillion budget conciliation bill based on Biden’s American Families Plan released in April.

“I think it’s just outrageous the amount of money and the question is whether any of it would be paid for and what does it encompass?” Capito said. “One of the things we need to begin thinking of is the inflationary results from all this spending….I’m very concerned about how this will affect West Virginians and West Virginia budgets.”

The $3.5 trillion agreement includes plans to expand Medicare coverage for dental, vision, and hearing, as well as expand coverage in states that have not opted in for increased Medicare coverage. It includes funding for universal Pre-Kindergarten, childcare subsidies, paid family and leave, child tax credits, increases in Pell Grants.

The bill is also expected to include other items on progressive Democrats’ wish lists, such as immigration reform, the PRO Act, which would provide increased protections for unions and undo state Right-to-Work laws, and require the use of clean energy for 80% of the U.S. power needs by 2030 and other clean energy initiatives. Pay-fors would come from tax increases on corporate and international rates.

The budget reconciliation process doesn’t need the usual 60 votes to pass in the U.S. Senate, requiring at least 10 Republicans to vote. The process only needs a simple majority of 51 votes, all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus plus Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that all 50 Republicans would not support the budget reconciliation bill. It also remains to be seen how more moderate members of the Democratic Caucus will vote. Sen. Joe Manchin issued a statement Wednesday withholding his opinion until he sees the final agreement.

“I know my Democratic colleagues on the Budget Committee have worked hard and I look forward to reviewing their agreement,” Manchin said. “I’m also very interested in how this proposal is paid for and how it enables us to remain globally competitive. I will reserve any final judgement until I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the proposal.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Manchin chairs, passed an original bill Wednesday dealing with energy and outdoor infrastructure. The $100 billion bill includes funding for clean energy technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration. It also includes funding for building out domestic supply chains, such as finding rare earth minerals for use in electronics.

“This infrastructure bill includes provisions that have enjoyed strong bipartisan support in this Committee,” Manchin said. “It also delivers on President Biden’s American Jobs Plan in many ways and has earned the support of a wide swath of stakeholders.”

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