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Senators in infrastructure talks say deal could come this week

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) put his Democratic colleagues on notice Monday night, predicting they would not be able to pass a massive $3.5 trillion spending plan if attempts to piece together a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure fail.

“I would say that if a bipartisan infrastructure bill falls apart, everything could fall apart,” Manchin told reporters. “… Both of them are extremely important, but [if] one falls apart, how do you do the other one? How’s the other one become more important?”

Lawmakers from both parties have struggled to iron out the final details of the $1.2 trillion package, the framework of which was announced by President Biden last month. Senators involved in negotiations had hoped to have a final bill completed early this week after Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote last week on the unfinished legislation.

Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) threatened to make senators work through this weekend to put a bill on the floor for a vote.

“We have reached a critical moment,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The bipartisan group of Senators has had nearly five weeks of negotiations since they first announced an agreement with President Biden. It’s time for everyone to get to ‘yes’ and produce an outcome for the American people.”

Key sticking points include funding for public transit, water systems, broadband and how to pay for the sweeping plan, as well as a Democratic proposal to require federal contractors and subcontractors pay laborers and mechanics on some projects a certain amount in wages.

Republicans have rebuffed a so-called “global offer” from the White House and Democratic lawmakers which includes $579 billion in new spending, arguing the proposal negates provisions that were already agreed upon.

“We’re trying to get the best infrastructure bill, with a bipartisan movement,” Manchin said, “and the president has been determined and been helping and been leading this, and we’re hoping to get that done. That’s the most important thing.”

The real prize for Democrats is the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which they are hoping to ram through the Senate with just 51 votes using the parliamentary tactic of reconciliation. The measure is expected to include funds for social programs like education, climate change and Medicare, as well as language providing a path to citizenship for millions in the US illegally.

However, with the Senate split 50-50, Democrats can’t afford to lose a single member of their conference, including the moderate Manchin, who has not said whether he will vote for the resolution.

“I think there’s a lot of good things in the reconciliation [bill] I really want to work on … ” Manchin said Monday. “But we haven’t spent the time on that. This [bipartisan] one’s ready to go. This one’s ready to go.”

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