WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 24: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to reporters about infrastructure legislation on Capitol Hill June 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of Senators and White House negotiators have agreed on a framework for infrastructure legislation and will meet with President Joe Biden today. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) It’s hard to understand what Joe Manchin is doing these days, other than forcing Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell to fight over who gets to loofah his undercarriage as he dithers in the bath over infrastructure spending. Of course, the real question is whether either of those two can loofah more lovingly than the fossil fuel industry, because just eight months ago, Manchin didn’t balk at $4 trillion in infrastructure spending—so it may just be that his recent concerns have more to do with what the money will be spent on than how much we spend.
To be fair, the budget reconciliation package the Democrats are hoping to pass over Manchin’s all-too-strident objections comes to $3.5 trillion. Along with the already passed (though still-unsigned) $1.2 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the total cost to the Treasury would be $4.7 trillion. But, hey, are we going to blow up America’s (and the world’s) hopes and dreams over $700 billion?
MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan recently unearthed a clip in which Manchin endorsed, all on his lonesome, an appropriately robust infrastructure investment—up to $4 trillion. And strangely enough, at the time, he wasn’t worried about inflation so much as the significant opportunity costs of not passing meaningful infrastructure legislation.
HASAN: “According to Axios, Manchin is privately telling the White House he might only back as little as $1 trillion in spending. Manchin will tell whoever’s listening that he’s worried about debt and deficits. But, hey, Joe Manchin, this you?”
MANCHIN (CLIP): “The most important thing, do … big infrastructure. Spend $2, $3, $4 trillion over a 10-year period on infrastructure. You want to put everybody back to work? There’s a lot of people that lost their jobs, but those jobs aren’t coming back. They need a place to work and make a living. Every state can start an infrastructure program.”
HASAN: “What a difference eight months can make.”So what’s changed? Since this interview aired on Jan. 19, Congress passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. But that was about keeping our country’s head above water in the midst of a still-raging pandemic. The rest of Biden’s economic plan is decidedly forward-thinking. Maybe Manchin needs to explain to his constituents, whose lives would be significantly improved by this bill, what exactly he doesn’t like about it.
Or maybe he just needs to explain to those constituents—who will be working in industries other than coal sooner or later no matter what President Biden and the Democrats do—why greening the economy is apparently a far less urgent priority than greening his own wallet.
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