Moderate and progressive Democrats in the Senate are at odds with one another over how to respond to Republicans’ $568 billion infrastructure counter-offer.
On one side are Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), all of whom have reacted positively to Republicans providing an alternative to Democrats’ mammoth $2 trillion proposal.
Coons, a close Biden ally who sits in the president’s former Senate seat, has publicly advocated for taking a bipartisan approach to passing an infrastructure package.
In that spirit of bipartisanship, Coons appeared over the weekend on Fox News alongside Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.), an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to reveal they were working on a compromise package.
“It strikes me as a serious attempt at providing a counteroffer that meets the general framework that I was hoping for,” Coons replied when asked Thursday by Politico about the GOP proposal.
He added that he was “encouraged” by Republicans appearing to be acting in good faith by actually making a serious counter-offer.
Warner, a moderate Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill, “I think this is a starting point for discussions.”
Manchin, one of the most influential senators as a red-state Democrat in a tightly divided body, has pledged that he would not support a package that wasn’t bipartisan.
After being asked about the counter-offer, made by his home state colleague Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Manchin called the proposal “a starting point.”
Telling reporters that he was “sure that we can find a compromise,” he applauded his fellow West Virginian for putting together the proposal.
“I appreciate and respect what she did.”
Not all Democrats felt the same as Manchin and his fellow moderates, though.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) appeared to mock the size of Capito’s plan Thursday, asking, “It seems small, doesn’t it?”
“I was never that good at math but $2.3 trillion versus $568 billion,” he continued.
While he said he agreed that the spending priorities in the GOP plan, Republicans funding levels “need to be a lot bigger.”
“Delay just raises the cost. It needs to be a really big proposal.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a moderate representing a purple state, expressed his distaste for the GOP proposal in no uncertain terms.
“The decision by Senate Republicans to completely cut the funding for home and community-based services that is in the American Jobs Plan is a slap in the face to older adults and people with disabilities. It’s also an insult to the workers who provide home and community-based services,” the Pennsylvania senator said in a statement Thursday.
“Senate Republicans need to go back to the drawing board and present a real offer. I won’t be a part of any scheme that sells out our seniors and those with disabilities who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic,” his statement continued.
Speaking to reporters on a press call Thursday, Casey and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, continued to voice their ire toward the GOP effort at bipartisanship.
“This Republican proposal is light years out of the ballpark in terms of being able to get a bipartisan compromise. They really dump it all on the backs of middle class workers,” Wyden said.
Casey went on to note how Republicans slash the $400 billion in-home elder care component of Biden’s proposal, calling it “a slap in the face” and a “terrible insult” to everyday Americans.
The Capito-backed legislation also sparked negative reaction from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and one of the most vocal progressives in the Democratic caucus.
“I think that number is totally inadequate given the infrastructural needs facing this country and the funding for their proposal is very regressive, coming down on working families,” he said of the $568 billion in proposed spending from the GOP.
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declined to offer an immediate reaction to the offer, instead reiterating his position Thursday from the Senate floor that, “any infrastructure bill we consider here in the Senate must include green infrastructure, create green jobs and make significant progress towards the reduction of greenhouse gases.”