Infrastructure talks continue into next week

CHARLESTON — Despite the failure of a procedural vote Wednesday for a bipartisan infrastructure framework, negotiations between Republican and Democratic U.S. senators will continue with a new deadline of Monday.

Though both of West Virginia’s U.S. Senators — Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito — remain open-minded and optimistic about the outcome of negotiations on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package (BIF), Capito remains concerns about how the package will be paid for and whether members will have time to read the bill before a possible vote.

“I’m very committed to a good physical infrastructure package that can pass bipartisan and that will make great investments in our airports, roads, bridges, broadband, transit, and all kinds of physical infrastructure packages,” Capito said Thursday in a virtual briefing with West Virginia press.

“I think one of the things that stalling this bipartisan infrastructure package is the fact that we don’t have legislative texts,” Capito continued. “We don’t know what exact programs are included, in what amounts, and how significant.”

Capito was one of 51 senators that voted against a procedural motion Wednesday to begin debate on the BIF package. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., set a deadline last week of Wednesday for a group of Republican and Democratic senators to come up with a final agreement on the BIF. Those negotiations are still ongoing with a new deadline set for Monday.

Schumer changed his vote on the procedural motion from yes to no, allowing him to move to reconsider the vote on the motion next week should the bipartisan group come up with a deal. Capito said Schumer’s attempt to pressure a deal with Wednesday’s vote was doomed to fail.

“We had a vote (Wednesday) that Senator Schumer sort of insisted on … I think he set it up to try to pressure the group to have text ready and everything, and it just didn’t come about because it’s very complicated,” Capito said. “I voted no because I’m not going to vote for something that I don’t know what it is. I didn’t see the details. I don’t know how much it’s going to cost. I don’t know how it’s paid for. I don’t know what it encompasses.”

Manchin, one of the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus involved with BIF negotiations, said in a statement Wednesday that the group is close to a final deal.

“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement,” Manchin said. “We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right — and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days. We appreciate our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the administration, working with us to get this done for the American people.”

“My friends on both sides of the aisle who are on the negotiating team think they’re getting very, very close, so we will see, and we will see what’s in there and how it affects West Virginia,” Capito said.

The $1.2 trillion BIF package – based in part on President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan and built on the earlier negotiations between the White House and a Republican team led by Capito – is a traditional infrastructure bill.

The framework includes $579 billion in new infrastructure spending for roads and bridges, highway safety, public transportation, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, airports, and ports and waterways. It also includes funding for water infrastructure, broadband expansion, environmental remediation, power grid resiliency, and western water storage. The total cost is $1.2 trillion spread out over eight years.


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