Infrastructure talks have been rendered a joke by GOP bad faith and whatever Joe Manchin thinks he's doing
Negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans over an infrastructure and jobs package are a predictable mess of Republican obstruction and dishonesty, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed Tuesday that the legislation, whatever it looks like, will move on the planned timeline.
"It has always been our plan—regardless of the vehicle—to work on an infrastructure bill in July," Schumer said. "That's our plan, to move forward in July."
But key Democratic swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin sounded an ominous note, saying, "There's no magic date and there's no magic time." Since delay is a key Republican tactic for killing Democratic plans, Manchin's apparent willingness to drag things out could be a death knell. "We have to find something reasonable, and I'm always looking for that moderate, reasonable middle, if you can," he added, as if "reasonable" can be found in the middle between Republicans categorically opposed to anything Democrats want to do and President Joe Biden, a longtime moderate.
The question—aside from whether Schumer is accurate or Manchin helps Republicans delay an infrastructure plan to death—is what will move forward. The baseline here is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's pledge that "100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration." Against that backdrop, various Republican senators have been negotiating, or pretending to do so, but mysteriously that hasn't gone much of anywhere.
Biden has dropped his ask from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion, while Republicans haven't moved nearly as much. They're playing games with numbers, claiming to be offering $600 billion or $1 trillion deals without admitting that much of their proposed spending is basically fictional. In some cases, Republicans are offering funding that already exists for those purposes while trying to make it look like new spending. Most recently, though, Republicans are trying to shift COVID-19 relief funds passed in the American Rescue Plan into their infrastructure proposal, stripping hundreds of billions of dollars from aid to state and local governments and payments to rural hospitals and other providers.
And even with all that trick accounting and plans to rob one priority to pay for another, Republicans are only claiming to offer $1 trillion. They're also steadfastly clinging to a 20th-century vision of U.S. infrastructure needs, in which roads and bridges count but a national charging network for electric vehicles does not, and care for the elderly and people with disabilities does not either.
These people can't be negotiated with because they are not operating in good faith. Will Manchin be willing to see that as Biden tries and tries and gets nowhere, or does he believe that if he helps Republicans block the infrastructure and jobs spending the U.S. so desperately needs, they will give him a break in his reelection? If so, does he also believe in unicorns, Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy?
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