- Sen. Joe Manchin opposed increasing the gas tax or levying new charges to pay for infrastructure.
- “Hell no, don’t raise them!” he told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
- Gas taxes and new user fees are measures Republicans floated in recent days to cover infrastructure.
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Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is staunchly opposed to lifting the gas tax and implementing user fees, the GOP’s preferred measures of financing infrastructure upgrades.
“Hell no, don’t raise them!” he told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “I got people that have to drive a long way to make a living. That just makes it harder on the working person. That’s not the way to do it.”
The West Virginia Democrat said a bipartisan group of lawmakers were weighing the use of unspent coronavirus relief funds to offset the price tag of a jobs package. That’s another potential source of federal revenue that Republicans floated in recent days, on top of user fees designed to pass more of the cost onto people instead of large firms.
“The money is already out there. We need to make it clear that that money is available for infrastructure projects,” Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters on Monday.
A GOP-led bloc is assembling an infrastructure proposal ranging from $600 billion to $800 billion, aimed at kicking off negotiations with President Joe Biden on his $2.3 trillion plan. Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is among those leading the effort.
Manchin is an influential figure in the evenly divided Senate, wielding the power to delay or torpedo many parts of Biden’s agenda. He favors a $4 trillion infrastructure plan as long as Democrats design ways to pay for it.
But his support appears to have limits. Manchin recently warned Democrats he may oppose efforts to bypass Republicans multiple times in a single year using reconciliation, the tactic used to approve Biden’s stimulus package without any GOP votes.
The White House dismissed user fees on Tuesday. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Biden campaigned on not raising taxes for people earning below $400,000 annually.
“He’s not going to budge on that pledge,” Psaki said. “So that is a line in the sand for him. “
Republicans argue the Biden plan goes far beyond the traditional boundaries of an infrastructure plan, citing its significant funding for in-home elder care and clean-energy tax credits. Democrats say they are attempting to level the economic playing field and combat climate change in their plan.
The White House plan includes money to repair roads and bridges, eliminate lead pipes from water systems, and incentivize domestic manufacturing. A follow-up plan later this month is expected to include universal pre-K and free community college.
Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi told reporters on Wednesday that the GOP group aims to unveil their plan on Thursday.