To hear Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) tell it, a bipartisan breakthrough on infrastructure investments is quite likely. The conservative Democrat said yesterday he had "all the confidence in the world" that the White House and Senate Republicans could reach a compromise, adding that the two sides are "not that far apart."
I honestly haven't the foggiest idea what he's talking about.
As recently as Friday, President Biden spoke once again with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who upped the GOP's offer by $50 billion. The White House swiftly, and understandably, rejected the offer.
The president expressed his gratitude for her effort and goodwill, but also indicated that the current offer did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis, and create new jobs," press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Consider a brief timeline of events:
1. Biden presented an ambitious infrastructure package, called the American Jobs Plan, which came with a hefty price tag: roughly $2.25 trillion. It would have been paid for in large part by rolling back parts of Trump's failed tax package from 2017.
2. Republicans said no.
3. Biden slashed the top line of his plan to $1.7 trillion.
4. Republicans said no again and pitched roughly $225 billion in new investments.
5. Biden said no.
6. Republicans upped their offer, but only to $257 billion.
8. Republicans said no again, but upped their offer by another $50 billion, which the White House immediately dismissed as unacceptable.
Joe Manchin would have us believe they're "not that far apart," which is true if one looks past the fact that the two sides aren't close to a top-line target, and fundamentally disagree on how to pay for the entire initiative.
Other that than, however, we should have "all the confidence in the world" that this will work out fine.
The official White House statement did include a paragraph, however, that went largely overlooked:
The President also spoke to Chairman DeFazio to thank him for all his hard work on key elements of the American Jobs Plan, and to offer his support for the Committee mark-up that Chairman DeFazio will begin on Wednesday. The President and Chairman DeFazio agreed on the benefits of continued engagement with Democratic and Republican Senators as the House work on infrastructure advances this coming week.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which hasn't yet begun in earnest to advance the White House's American Jobs Plan. That said, Jen Psaki's Friday statement suggested that DeFazio is poised to move forward with the package this week.
Watch this space.
Postscript: In case this isn't obvious, the fallback plan has long been for Democrats to pass their own plan through the reconciliation process if Senate Republicans balked at bipartisan compromise offers. Last week, Joe Manchin said he doesn't want that to happen.