Washington — While the Senate awaits final legislative text for the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a key Democrat involved in negotiations over the proposal, said Sunday that the Senate wants to approve the plan to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and rails by Thursday.
“They’re drafting it. The text will be done, hopefully we’ll introduce it today. We’ll vote on it tonight. We’ll start the amendment process hopefully on Monday,” Manchin said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “But we want to be done by Thursday. We want to move on.”
After the bipartisan group of senators and the White House reached aon Wednesday, the Senate moved swiftly on a to advance the plan, clearing a key hurdle after weeks of discussions over the details of the measure.
Senate negotiators are still working to turn the proposal into legislative text, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged the chamber will pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which is the blueprint for a second, more sweeping infrastructure measure, before senators depart for the August recess.
The more narrow plan includes $550 billion in new spending on physical infrastructure and has been touted by President Biden as the largest investment in the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, water and rail systems in decades. Senatorsfor a rare weekend session in anticipation of the bill text being completed. Once that happens, members can begin offering amendments to the bipartisan plan.
Manchin said the bill is 99.9% written and predicted text will be finalized in the coming hours.
“I’ve always believed that everything should rise or fall on its own merits,” he said. “This is the president’s bill. This is all of our bill. It’s a Democrat, it’s every Republicans’ bill. There’s not an infrastructure need in the country that has an R or D name on it. And that’s what brings us together.”
Congressional Democratic leaders and the White House have employed a two-track strategy for passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the larger $3.5 trillion proposal, which are key pillars of Mr. Biden’s domestic policy agenda. While the more narrow plan will pass with bipartisan support, Democrats are using a procedure called budget reconciliation to move the broader bill, which allows it to clear the Senate with a simple majority, and only Democratic backing.
Manchin said Sunday the success of both pieces of legislation hinges on a willingness to compromise and trust among Democrats.
“We’ve been working on this for six weeks and we finally come down to the last day of the last hour to get it finished. It takes compromise,” he said. “You have to trust each other. You have to work. I respect my colleagues who believe something a lot different than I do. And I’m willing to listen and learn. And if we can find that compromise, we’ll find it.”
But progressives in the House, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, are pushing back on the details of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, potentially complicating the pathway to passage in the House, where Democrats hold a slim majority.
Progressive lawmakers have linked their support for the bipartisan plan to the broader proposal, which includes Mr. Biden’s policies on child care, health care, education and the environment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, too, has said the House will not take up the targeted infrastructure measure until the Senate moves on the second spending package.
Manchin, though, said it’s possible some House Republicans vote in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure plan, allowing it to pass the lower chamber regardless of the pushback from the progressive flank.
“Maybe you’ll have 15 or 20 Republicans that will see a good bill. Maybe there might be 100 Republicans in the House that says, ‘My God, I like this. Guess what? It takes care of my transportation. It’s the greatest jobs bill we’ve ever had. It runs for five to 10 years. It gives you total growth each year to try to stimulate the economy,'” the West Virginia senator said.
Support from Manchin and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are crucial to passage of the $3.5 trillion plan in the Senate, where Democrats hold 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking votes. Sinema said last week she takes issue with the larger proposal’s price tag, but is in favor of beginning the budget reconciliation process.
Manchin, meanwhile, said Sunday he wants to ensure possible changes to the tax code included in the larger plan do not hinder the nation’s competitiveness in the global market.
“If we can’t [compete] … and basically we have a downturn in the economy and inflation skyrockets, we have problems,” he said. “You have to be careful about all that.”