Manchin balks at GOP’s smaller infrastructure plan – and says he can back $4 trillion as long as it’s paid for

Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

  • Sen. Manchin rebuked the GOP’s infrastructure plan, saying Senators should “do whatever it takes.”
  • The moderate Democrat added he’s open to spending $4 trillion so long as it’s paid for.
  • The GOP is preparing an up to $800 billion bill, much smaller than Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan, which may be followed by another $2 trillion.
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Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is open to a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan. He just wants to see the bill covered.

That could be bad news for Republicans hoping he’ll break with his party on the next massive plan from President Joe Biden’s desk.

Manchin – a moderate Democrat with incredible influence over Senate Democrats’ agenda – rebuked the GOP’s infrastructure plan on Thursday. These comments could reverberate widely.

A group of Senate Republicans is preparing a plan that could range from $600 billion to $800 billion, drastically undercutting President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal. Separately, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly telling his caucus to praise Manchin in an effort to win his support.

Manchin’s support is critical for Democrats to pass an infrastructure plan of their own. With Democrats only holding 50 seats in the Senate and relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie, any opposition from Manchin or other moderate Democrats dooms efforts to pass legislation by a simple majority under reconciliation.

The senator from West Virginia told reporters he still sees room for agreement between Democrats and Republicans, but also that he’s willing to go big if the situation warrants such spending.

“I don’t think they’re locked in on any number,” Manchin said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes. If it takes $4 trillion, I’d do $4 trillion, but we have to pay for it.”

The $4 trillion sum evokes the sum Biden is reportedly looking to spend between two infrastructure proposals. The $2.3 trillion plan unveiled in March focuses more on traditional infrastructure and renovations. A follow-up measure – known as the American Families Act – is expected to include funds for universal pre-K, child care, and other social measures.

The infrastructure argument has split Senators along partisan lines as Biden looks to pass legislation that rivals the New Deal. Democrats argue that new benefits like free community college and child care should join traditional infrastructure in a spending package. Republicans balk at this wider definition and are instead pushing for a slimmed-down measure that focuses on rebuilding roads and bridges. In fact, their slimmed-down plan could double the amount spent on this aspect of physical infrastructure.

The two parties need to come to an agreement on the very definition of “infrastructure,” Manchin said. Identifying exactly what elements the bill should cover is paramount to passing legislation in a timely manner, he added.

The GOP’s plan also differs from Biden’s in that it lacks a corporate tax hike. The president proposed lifting the corporate rate to 28% from 21% along with other tax increases to pay for his infrastructure plan. The GOP instead aims to finance their plan with “user fees,” such as taxes on vehicle mileage traveled or possibly pushing for an increase to the gas tax.

GOP senators doubled down on their dismissal of a corporate tax hike, calling such policy a “non-negotiable red line” Thursday afternoon. Still, they appeared far from agreed on the scope of an overall infrastructure package.

The GOP’s stance mirrors that seen in February as both parties readied their respective stimulus packages. Republican Senators pitched a $618 billion measure to the White House that slashed spending on tenets of Biden’s own plan, including stimulus checks and unemployment insurance. Biden ended up approving a $1.9 trillion package that’s since distributed billions of dollars to American households.

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Billionaires around the world added $4 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic

tax the rich protest US billionaires
  • A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies analyzes billionaires’ gains during the pandemic.
  • The world’s 2,365 billionaires added $4 trillion to their collective wealth, it found.
  • A January Oxfam report said billionaires’ global gains could pay for everyone’s vaccine.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

From March 18, 2020, to March 18, 2021, the world’s billionaires added $4 trillion to their wealth, according to a new report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

That’s a 54% increase for the world’s 2,365 billionaires, who now have $12.39 trillion. The wealthiest 20 billionaires alone added $742 billion to their collective wealth during a pandemic – a 68% increase.

A January Oxfam report, which tracked global billionaire gains through December 31, 2020, found that the world’s billionaires had added $3.9 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic – an increase that could pay for the entire world’s vaccinations and prevent anyone from falling into poverty. That report found that recovery for people at the bottom could take up to a decade, with 200 million to 500 million people falling into poverty in 2020.

Now, according to the IPS report, which analyzes data from Forbes, Bloomberg, and Wealth-X, those billionaire gains have grown.

Renewed calls for a wealth tax

One of the Oxfam report’s possible solutions for creating a “better world” was imposing a wealth tax.

The IPS report found that American billionaires account for less than a third of that total wealth. But a wealth tax like the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren – where households with a net worth of over $50 million would see a 2% tax, and those with over $3 billion would see a 3% tax – would still raise $120 billion per year, according to the report.

From the end of 2019 to the end of 2020, the top 1% of Americans added just about $4 trillion to their wealth, while the bottom 50% held just $2.49 trillion in total household wealth by the end of 2020.

However, a wealth tax may still be a ways off in the US. President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure package is paired with an accompanying tax hike. But that increase would only target corporations, raising the corporate tax from 21% to 28%, and seek to enact a global minimum tax rate of 21%. It leaves wealth individuals alone, for now, although Biden’s administration has said it wants to tax households making $400,000 a year and up.

“I’m open to other ideas, so long as they do not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000,” Biden said in his speech introducing the package.

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