West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Wednesday he’s “very uncomfortable” with President Biden’s proposed $6 trillion trio of mammoth early-term spending bills, signaling trouble for the two packages still pending.
The White House on Wednesday unveiled the details of Biden’s $1.8 trillion “American Families Plan.” Democrats in Congress are still writing his $2.3 trillion “American Jobs Plan” — after passing his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” last month without any Republican votes.
“A lot of money, a lot of money — that makes you very uncomfortable, you’re going to find how you’re going to pay for it, you know?” Manchin told reporter Manu Raju of CNN on Capitol Hill.
“Are we going to be able to be competitive and be able to pay for what we need as a country? We’ve got to figure out what our needs are and maybe make some adjustments, who knows.”
Manchin can singlehandedly doom or force revisions to Biden’s pending infrastructure and social spending plans because Democrats hold a bare 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties in their favor.
The senator said he’s broadly concerned about adding to the national debt.
“I don’t know how much more debt — we’re $28.2 trillion now in debt. There’s a balance to be had and we got to work that out,” he said.
The “families” package includes $511 billion for education, including universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and free community college, and $225 billion for child care, including a subsidy that would cap expenses for most workers at 7 percent of income. The plan calls for $225 billion to subsidize 12 weeks of paid parental and sick leave and $45 billion more for food stamps and school food programs.
Manchin said he was particularly skeptical of the proposal to spend $200 billion on federally funding preschool, saying that West Virginia — one of the nation’s poorest states — was able to do it without outside help.
“We got pre-K in West Virginia and we didn’t have the federal government step up to the plate on that. We did it,” he said.
Both Biden’s pending infrastructure plan and the “families” plan would be funded with tax hikes on businesses, wealthier people and investors, which Republicans say would slow economic growth.
Congress is still drafting Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill — which would include $400 billion for home health care, $174 billion in electric vehicle subsidies, $115 billion for roads and bridges, $111 billion for modernizing water systems, $100 billion each for school construction and expanding broadband internet, $85 billion for public transit systems and $80 billion for Amtrak repairs, among other items.
Last month, Congress approved Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, which included $1,400 stimulus checks for adults making up to $75,000 and extended a $300 weekly unemployment supplement through Sept. 6. That bill also contained $120 billion for K-12 schools, $350 billion in state and local aid and $75 billion for COVID-19 vaccination, testing and other pandemic medical supplies.
The bill also set up a new $25 billion grant program specifically for bars and restaurants that compensates for lost pandemic revenue and expanded the annual tax credit per child from $2,000 to $3,000, or $3,600 for children under 6. Biden’s American Families Plan would make that credit expansion permanent.
Manchin isn’t the only stumbling block for Democrats.
In the House, where Democrats hold a mere six-seat majority, a trio of Democrats — Reps. Tom Suozzi of New York and Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey — vowed to oppose the “families” plan if it doesn’t contain a repeal of the 2017 SALT deduction cap, which essentially raised taxes in higher-tax jurisdictions like New York and New Jersey by capping at $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted before paying federal taxes.
“I want to be very clear as far as me personally: no SALT, no deal,” Suozzi told The Post this month.
New York Democrats are in a particularly difficult spot because Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used the possible repeal of the SALT cap to justify state tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy.
The White House has said that if the SALT cap repeal is included in the final package, the change’s estimated $90 billion annual cost would have to be offset with new revenue.