Senate Democrats late Monday received a green light from the chamber's parliamentarian to pass additional bills through the arcane budget reconciliation process this year, good news for the party's efforts to approve a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure package in the face of unified Republican opposition.
But several conservatives in the Senate Democratic caucus, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.) leading the pack, are threatening to stand in the way of the infrastructure proposal unless they get what they want—namely, a smaller tax hike on corporate America.
"'Centrists' always try to neuter whatever is offered just to show how tough they are and own the left. It's all performative and devoid of any sort of principle."
—Krystal Ball, HillTV
In an appearance on a local radio show Monday, Manchin said he and "six or seven other" Senate Democrats "feel very strongly" about reducing the corporate tax rate proposed in President Joe Biden's opening infrastructure bid from 28% to 25%, up from the current rate of 21%.
With their razor-thin control of the chamber, Senate Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote if they opt to push the infrastructure bill through the reconciliation process, which requires a mere simple majority to pass legislation.
"If I don't vote to get on it, it's not going anywhere. So we're going to have some leverage here," Manchin said Monday. Parroting right-wing talking points on the supposedly counterproductive effects of higher corporate taxes, the West Virginia Democrat added, "We have to be competitive and we're not going to throw caution to the wind."
Progressives were quick to slam Manchin's opposition to the proposed 28% corporate tax rate as disingenuous, given his previous support for a 28% rate. Political commentator Mehdi Hasan mocked the notion that Manchin "has put some super serious thought into the difference between a 25% and 28% corporate tax rate and isn't just trying to split the difference between GOP outlier position and reasonable Biden proposal."
Krystal Ball, host of HillTV's "Rising," added that "'centrists' always try to neuter whatever is offered just to show how tough they are and own the left. It's all performative and devoid of any sort of principle."
Speaking to the press Monday afternoon, Biden dismissed the notion that raising the corporate tax rate would harm the U.S. economy.
"There's no evidence of that," the president said. "You have 51 or 52 corporations of the Fortune 500 [that] haven't paid a single penny in taxes for three years. Come on, man. Let's get real."
As The Daily Poster reported late Monday, "Manchin's proposed change would have a huge impact on how the Biden infrastructure plan is paid for, while largely preserving a tax policy that is delivering a disproportionately huge windfall to a tiny handful of executives at major corporations.
"Manchin's move could also particularly benefit private equity firms that have converted from partnership structures to C Corporations to take advantage of President Donald Trump's tax law, which dropped the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent," the outlet noted.
Manchin's comments Monday came hours before the Senate parliamentarian—an unelected official tasked with interpreting and offering advice on the chamber's rules—said Democrats can use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to pass additional spending legislation this year, giving the party additional flexibility as it attempts to maneuver around intransigent Republicans without heeding progressive demands to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster.
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said late Monday that the parliamentarian's advisory ruling "allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues."
"This is what the American people want right now. And our job is to rally the American people in every state in this country to make sure that the government starts working for the working class of this country, not just the 1%."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
"While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward... and some parameters still need to be worked out," the spokesperson continued, "the parliamentarian's opinion is an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, called the parliamentarian's ruling "important" and stressed the need for an ambitious bill that addresses the nation's pressing needs, from climate to core infrastructure to healthcare.
"In other words, right now, what this new reconciliation package is about is dealing with long-term structural problems," Sanders said. "Everybody knows our physical infrastructure is collapsing. We know we can create millions of jobs, transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel. But also we have got to deal with human infrastructure."
Asked Sunday about Manchin's opposition to key elements of Biden's roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, Sanders said "I think we need a grassroots movement that makes it clear to Joe Manchin and everybody else in the United States Senate, including the Republicans, that the progressive agenda is what the American people want."
"They want to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour; they believe that healthcare is a human right, should be universal; they demand that the rich start paying their fair share of taxes," the Vermont senator continued. "These are not my ideas, this is what the American people want right now. And our job is to rally the American people in every state in this country to make sure that the government starts working for the working class of this country, not just the 1%."