WASHINGTON — West Virginia’s U.S. senators on Thursday — both of whom have been on the front lines of infrastructure negotiations — weighed in on the bipartisan deal hammered out in Washington D.C.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and other Democrat and Republican senators were in talks with President Joe Biden on the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure proposal they reached.
The president has signed off on the plan, which was developed through the initial work by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in coming up with a compromise with Republicans on an infrastructure bill, Manchin said.
“Shelley did one heck of a job,” he said.
Manchin told reporters in a Zoom meeting from his office in Washington, D.C., he has yet to hear what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., thinks.
Republicans in the discussions with the president were meeting with McConnell, Manchin said.
The Senate may take up infrastructure after Congress returns in July. Another Democrat-only plan may also be put forth, according to national media reports.
The bipartisan plan involves traditional infrastructure, such as roads, transportation by air and rail and water related projects and research to achieve energy independence, Manchin said. It could pass with 60 or 65 senators in favor, he said.
At least 60 votes are needed because of the filibuster rule, which Manchin has said he won’t vote to alter. Democrats and Republicans each have 50 members in the Senate.
Manchin in a tweet said the plan provides $579 billion in new spending for roads, bridges, public transit, expanded passenger rail, airports, broadband and water systems, among other areas. It would be paid for by closing the tax gap, redirecting unspent relief funds and other sources, he said.
Capito, also during a press conference with reporters earlier in the afternoon, said a possible source of financing is unspent COVID-19 relief funds, of which $100 billion is available, she said.
“Let’s put that into infrastructure because it’s a job creator,” Capito said.
A traditional source of funding for infrastructure projects is the tax on gasoline, but that revenue has been declining, Capito said. Electric vehicle user fees are a source along with private-sector financing, she said.
Neither higher gasoline taxes nor charges on electric vehicles were included, Manchin said.
Capito said she was waiting to see the details of the final infrastructure plan before committing to it. She also wants to see what’s in for water- and transportation system-related projects.
“I’m in a wait-and-see position,” Capito said.
Capito was among the Republican negotiators working on an infrastructure agreement with the president. Republicans believed Biden’s plan went beyond traditional infrastructure, like day care facilities.
It is encouraging, however, there was a bipartisan agreement reached, she said.
“I’m pleased a bipartisan effort has been successful, but we’re far from having this across the threshold over to the president’s desk,” Capito said.