Senate Democrats’ No. 2 is warning the party against trying to pass President Joe Biden’s economic package in two steps, the latest sign that the party is trying to avoid a complex and protracted negotiation over his agenda.
Biden is expected to introduce his "human infrastructure" plan this week to pair with his physical infrastructure plan introduced several weeks ago, laying out trillions in spending in a variety of sectors.
But Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that moving one bipartisan package focused on roads, bridges and transit and then pivoting to a second package with Democratic priorities on childcare and health care could be a mistake.
"I hope not. And the reason I hope not is time is not on our side. We have so many things to do," Durbin told reporters in the Capitol on Monday, ticking off police and immigration reform. "We don’t have a lot of time on the calendar. the sooner the better. Keep everything together and move it it in a package that works."
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have suggested doing an infrastructure bill with GOP support and then pivoting to one with only Democratic priorities, which the party could pass with 50 Democratic votes and Vice President Kamala Harris’s support. That would require lockstep unity and use of budget reconciliation to avoid a GOP filibuster.
Manchin said on CNN Sunday that Biden’s plans "should be separated" and compared a massive $2 trillion-plus package to an omnibus spending bill that would be "very difficult for the public to understand." Manchin so far opposes reconciliation and prefers negotiation with Republicans.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the No. 4 Democratic leader, said she’s "not going to draw a line in the sand on how to" execute Biden’s agenda. She said whether Democrats decide to go it alone "depends on whether or not the Republicans really want to do something that’s bold and meets the needs of the country right now."
But many Democrats say Republicans’ $568 billion infrastructure plan is too small. That plan is funded with users fees and unused coronavirus relief money, which Durbin said is "not going to do it." Biden has pitched funding his plan in part on a higher corporate tax, which Republicans do not support. That leaves the party wrestling with how to move forward as Biden approaches his 100th day in office.
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.