The Senate process in passing President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package highlighted just how powerful moderates in the chamber, especially Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), are now — and could continue to be as Biden looks to follow up on the rescue plan with an even larger infrastructure and climate change bill, among other items on his agenda.
“This was sort of a loose group of senators who are basically still concerned about the deficit, concerned about expenditures, and trying to ensure if we’re going to be spending $1.9 trillion that it’s directed to the people who need the most,” Sen. Angus King (I-ME), a moderate who caucuses with Democrats, told The Washington Post.
The Post’s Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report that centrists at one point this week floated a proposal to cut the $1,400 relief payments, limit who could get them and reduce the additional payments for families with children. That proposal was rejected by other Democrats.
Manchin is already trying to exert his influence on the next big legislative package, telling Axios that he’ll insist Republicans have more of a role in the infrastructure and climate legislation — and that he’ll push for tax increases to pay for the entire costs of the plan, which could be as large as $4 trillion.
Manchin also says that he’ll push for the next package start out going through regular order rather than the reconciliation process Democrats used on Covid relief to be able to pass the bill by a simple majority vote. "I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start trying," Manchin said, referring to Republicans.
Manchin told Axios that he’s concerned that the rapidly growing national debt will lead to "a tremendous deep recession that could lead into a depression if we're not careful.”
His pressure on the infrastructure package could result in substantial changes. “If the infrastructure package needed the support of 10 Republicans along with all the Democrats,” Kata Riga at Talking Points Memo writes, “it would likely be a much smaller package, stripped of some of the Biden administration’s priorities. Biden campaigned on infrastructure improvements married to climate change measures, an issue area that tends to invite scorn from Republican lawmakers.”