The day after Senate Republicans unanimously rejected even the idea of talking about free and fair elections, the bipartisan group of senators who say they are working on an infrastructure deal continues to talk. Those two issues—the filibuster on the For the People Act and infrastructure negotiations—are inextricably linked. There are a handful of moderate Democrats in that gang who are squishy on filibuster reform, so what happens in those negotiations will affect how they view moving forward on the rest of President Biden’s legislative agenda.
Reports are mixed as to whether the group is getting anywhere. The Wall Street Journal says “negotiators see progress.” That’s ahead of a meeting between Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi with White House officials on moving forward. The WSJ says that at the end of Tuesday, lawmakers in the group “said they had largely agreed on how to spend the proposed $973 billion over five years, including $579 billion in spending above expected federal levels, but were still working on how to offset the cost.” That, by the way, has been the point of disagreement for three months of bipartisan negotiations, first between Biden and West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, and now this group.
“These things are always complicated and tough,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told the WSJ. “It takes a while to write this stuff and do it correctly, but we’re getting there.” He also said a deal is possible by the end of the week. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, isn’t interested in waiting that long. “I think we’re going to have a deal this afternoon … or we just say we can’t do that,” he told reporters Wednesday.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin says it has to happen before recessing for the 4th of July break. If not, “it makes it difficult” he said, adding “I think we all feel that very strongly that we have to have a deal before we leave tomorrow.” Note that the Senate is nominally scheduled to be in on Friday, but the Senate is not going to be in session on a Friday before a holiday recess unless the government is about to shut down or something. The White House is providing no deadlines, but press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We’re certainly hoping to make progress over the next couple of days.” She also made a point of reiterating where the White House was unwilling to go—pretty brilliantly, too.
If by some miracle an agreement can be reached by this group, it has absolutely no guarantee of passing, even though there are 11 Republicans in the group: There’s no iron-clad pact among them that they’ll stick with it. Fellow Republicans are putting the onus on Biden. Sen. John Thune, Mitch McConnell’s second-in-command, said, “Where there’s a will there’s a way. If the White House really wants a deal, there’s a deal to be had there.”
Another Senate Democrat has drawn her opposite line in the sand. Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters Wednesday that she won’t back the plan, and thinks enough time has been frittered on the process. Her concern “is how much time they are chewing up—and how much delay they keep putting into the process when they recognize that’s not the whole infrastructure package.” She joins a raft of Democrats from moderate Michael Bennett from Colorado to liberal Ed Markey from her home state of Massachusetts who won’t support a plan unless the threat of climate change is dealt with seriously.
That’s where the “whole infrastructure package” Warren references above comes in. The bulk of Biden’s plan is going to have to pass via budget reconciliation, which doesn’t require Republican votes. It’s either that or get rid of the filibuster, and at this point it looks like budget reconciliation is a better bet. That’s in part because of movement from Manchin. He’s been the biggest obstacle, saying early on that he wouldn’t agree to it unless there was bipartisan negotiation on infrastructure. He got that, and he’s seen its limits. That might be why he’s budged a bit.
“I’ve come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it’s money matters,” Manchin told NBC News. He said he now supports funding for “human infrastructure”—the investments in child care, community college, and paid leave in Biden’s plan—as well as raising tax revenues to pay for it. “Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it,” Manchin said. “I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”
That’s actually pretty significant movement from Manchin, and bodes well for the budget reconciliation path Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders have kicked off. Manchin had to be Manchin and question the $6 trillion price tag Sanders is talking about for his package, but he has moved. So if you’re looking for a ray of hope after Tuesday’s For the People Act filibuster, there’s at least one.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.