WASHINGTON — A key moderate Democratic senator opened the door Tuesday to investing in President Joe Biden's "human infrastructure" proposals and unwinding some of the Republican tax cuts of 2017.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is working to ink a bipartisan deal to fund physical infrastructure, expressed openness to a separate filibuster-proof package to make economic investments, although he said the size and scope have yet to be determined.
"I've come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it's money matters," Manchin told NBC News, calling for bolstering "human infrastructure" — Biden's term for investments in child care, community college and paid leave — and raising tax revenues to fund them.
"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."
Manchin made his remarks after voting to advance Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill and maintaining his support for the filibuster. A budget reconciliation bill is a rare way for his party to bypass Republicans without abolishing the 60-vote rule.
They are significant because his vote would be needed on any bill in an evenly split Senate. Democrats can make changes to spending and tax laws without Republican support under a process known as budget reconciliation, which they used to pass Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 aid law.
The West Virginia Democrat expressed some resistance to the $6 trillion price tag floated by Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., calling it "a big number."
"Now, the size of the bill or what's going to be done — the scope of that, we’ve got to find out," Manchin said. "First of all, we should be looking at: What do we do that we think that keeps us competitive and make some changes in the tax code? Once you find out what makes you competitive in the tax code, then you'll find out how much money you have to invest in this human infrastructure."
Democratic leaders say they hope to advance Biden's infrastructure and economic plans in July.
Sanders said progressives would not support a bipartisan deal without a guarantee that a separate Democrats-only package could also move forward.
"There cannot be a bipartisan bill which only deals with physical infrastructure unless it's very clear that there's going to be a major reconciliation bill which deals with the needs of working families, climate change and progressive tax reform," Sanders told reporters. "And I think we can, we can make that happen. It's going to be either both or nothing."
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., agreed with Sanders: "Ultimately there's two tracks, and both trains have to arrive at the station at the same time," he said.