Manchin says infrastructure bill should be more focused; Capito works on alternative

Senator Joe Manchin says he supports much of the Biden administration’s infrastructure proposal, but he reiterated that he believes it should focus on traditional projects for roads, bridges, air and rail, as well as broadband internet.

“I would hope to see Democrats and Republicans agreeing on infrastructure – infrastructure by itself,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said today on a call with West Virginia reporters.

“It won’t be the $2.3 trillion, that I can tell you.”

Congress has been assessing a broad-ranging, $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal. The measure would address U.S. roads, bridges, airports, broadband, housing and utilities, and invest in job training along with care for elderly and disabled Americans. A major element running through the proposal is dealing with the effects of climate change.

Manchin participated Tuesday in a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that included testimony from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Housing & Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is also a member of that committee. Capito is at the center of Republican discussions of a counterproposal and has contended the Biden plan includes too many aspects unrelated to infrastructure such as funding for home care for the elderly and disabled and electric cars.

Capitol told reporters at the U.S. Capitol this week that the counter proposal would be presented by the end of the week.

“We need to settle on a conceptual sort of idea, and hopefully we’ll do that in the next several days,” Capito told national reporters. “Hopefully, by the end of the week.”

Manchin, in today’s call, said he has been involved with talks with the White House, as well as to his Democratic and Republican Senate colleagues. He alluded to a bipartisan meeting at midday today to discuss what should truly be in the bill.

“We should be doing something in a bipartisan way. I don’t think it will be successful just putting a Republican proposal out there,” Manchin said.

“It’ll be based around infrastructure only. That’d be my advice. That’s a better way to go.”

Some of Manchin’s criticism of the current proposal overlaps with the concerns Capito has described. For example, on the prioritization of electric cars, Manchin alluded to China’s edge in battery production because of its dominance of rare earth metals, an essential component.

Manchin also lamented wind blades made in Brazil and solar panels made in China.

“When are we going to start making something?” Manchin said.

The senator agreed on the need for improvements to roads, bridges, water systems, sewer systems, broadband and more. He focused some of his comments on a desire to complete highway projects such as Appalachian Corridor H, as well as the Coalfields Expressway and the King Coal Highway.

“If we don’t accelerate the permitting of these projects,” he said, “it’ll be 10 years before they get started.”

On MetroNews’ “Talkline” today, Manchin said debate over the infrastructure proposal is healthy.

“We’re in a situation where we have a 50-50 Senate, and it’s a very narrow margin in the House,” Manchin said. “This is all good negotiating. It’s all good to discuss this.”


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