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Federal lawmakers are considering the “human infrastructure” bill that would revamp Medicare by lowering the eligibility age to 60 and by adding coverage for vision, dental and hearing costs.

The legislation also would extend the child tax credit, mandate paid family and medical leave, require that every child have pre-kindergarten and that every older student have the option of free community college, and more. That’s a lot of much-needed help for West Virginians. More information about particulars of the bill is available at ReimagineAppalachia.org.

But because the bill comes from Democrats and is being promoted by the Biden administration, some state residents, in their self-flagellating fealty to Donald Trump, seem to believe that its passage would be a sacrilege. One of our U.S. senators, the party-bound Republican Shelley Moore Capito, evidently will not support the legislation despite the many ways it would help her folks here at home.

Meanwhile, our other senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, might support the bill, although he walks a political tightrope. Ironically, it is by pushing to bring these benefits to his struggling constituents that he will displease many of them, because they have gone red-hat blind.

To escape his dilemma, the senator retreats into worried discussions about the bill’s costs, which turns out to be only about 1.2% of the national economy and is payable by making several responsible moves, such as requiring those who earn $400,000 or more to pay more taxes and requiring wealthy corporations to do the same. Last Sunday, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Manchin at least a dozen times how much we could afford to spend over the next 10 years, if not the full $3.5 trillion. But he waltzed around the questions, never giving a clear answer.

Manchin is similarly dancing around our need to reform the filibuster. He tells us how important the filibuster is for preserving the voice of the minority. The senator isn’t entirely mistaken, but he is wrong when it comes to filibusters of legislation that, if passed, would ensure our right to vote. Manchin must decide whether the right of a single obstinate senator to halt voting rights legislation is more important than every American’s right to cast a ballot. It shouldn’t be a difficult decision.

But, getting back to the human infrastructure bill, the quandary that Manchin faces is this: Does he arouse the ire of the state’s MAGA voters by helping them survive? I am reminded of an old verse: “Some souls walk the high road, and some souls walk the low. And in between on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro.” The lines by Arthur Dunkerly whisper their message to Manchin. Your time is at hand, they say.

The human infrastructure bill is the high road. It rivals the significance of the civil rights and Medicare legislation of the 1960s. Conversely, if the senator thinks he can plumb the depths of conservative obstructionism and, thereby, discover something useful to his legacy, he would do well to recall the words of another insightful poet. It was Meatloaf who said, “There ain’t no Coup de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.”

Joseph Wyatt is a Gazette-Mail contributing columnist and emeritus professor at Marshall University. Reach him at wyatt@marshall.edu.

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