Joe Manchin balks at backing $6 trillion in infrastructure spending sought by Bernie Sanders, Senate Democrats

Joe manchin
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. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Joe Manchin balked at the $6 trillion price-tag of an economic package proposed by Bernie Sanders.
  • “I have a hard time swallowing that,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
  • Democrats are trying to pass a larger economic package that ticks off parts of Biden’s agenda.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday expressed concern about the $6 trillion price tag put forth in an economic package drafted by Sen Bernie Sanders along with other Senate Democrats, which increases odds of major cuts from that blueprint.

The West Virginia Democrat called the proposed number “extremely, extremely high” and said he’s unsure whether it’s appropriate for the federal government to “take on that much debt.”

“I have a hard time swallowing that,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Other Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia have also said they were uneasy with the price tag.

Manchin’s comments came moments before he joined a bipartisan group of 10 senators to meet with Biden at the White House and discuss the details of a smaller, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

After the meeting, Biden emerged from the Oval Office to announce that a deal had been struck. The framework includes $579 billion in new spending dedicated to physical infrastructure, notably roads and bridges, broadband access, and public transit.

The deal is significantly slimmed down from Biden’s initial $2.3 trillion proposal. It omits the corporate tax hike he sought, along with $400 billion in funding for eldercare.

-Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 24, 2021

Senate Democrats critical of the smaller bill hope to put together a much larger spending package, potentially as high as $6 trillion, that focuses on childcare and eldercare, climate change, education and other major initiatives backed by Biden.

But to pass such a deal without Republican support, Democrats have to utilize a process called budget reconciliation and approve the package on party lines. That means Manchin, a key moderate vote, would need to sign on given their narrow control of the Senate.

Manchin told reporters at the White House he’s “committed to working on a second package, absolutely,” but his comments signal that a lot of work needs to be done for his approval.

“We have to look at reconciliation,” he told Insider in an interview Thursday on Capitol Hill. “As far as myself and many others haven’t even seen it, except for the outline so we’ll get more particulars on it and we’ll start.”

He told Insider he was open to permanently expanding the child tax credit. That measure has the support of most Democrats in the House and Senate. Some centrists have raised concern that it would send checks to six-figure households.

“We’re working on all that,” Manchin said, adding he was planning to speak with Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, an architect of the proposal.

“You can’t go in with a closed mind,” he said. “You go in with a closed mind then you get nothing done.”