Compromise has gone the way of political comity in Washington.
Many in Congress are reluctant to seek common ground with the other side, for fear of being labeled by their base as a traitor. Still others in Washington believe those on the other side really are evil, so compromise is antithetical to their being.
But there are some inside the Capitol who have not yet given up on finding a middle ground, and West Virginia’s two U.S. Senators are among them. Take the infrastructure bill, for example.
President Joe Biden has proposed the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, with a corporate tax increase to pay for it. The plan includes more than $800 billion in spending for traditional infrastructure — transportation, water and sewer, and broadband — but much of the rest is for so-called “human infrastructure” — projects more closely associated with the Green New Deal or other favored progressive ideas.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has taken the lead on advancing a $568 billion counter-proposal that is more narrowly focused on roads and bridges, public transit, airports and ports.
Capito spoke with Biden last week about the GOP proposal, and came away encouraged.
“Just had a constructive and substantive call with President Biden about infrastructure,” Capito said. “We both expressed our mutual desire to work together and find common ground to address these challenges and deliver results for the American people. I stand ready to be a be a partner in advancing infrastructure legislation in a bipartisan way — just as we’ve done in the past.”
For his part, Biden sounded less willing to compromise, but he did leave the door open.
“If, like last time, they come in with one-fourth or one-fifth of what I’m asking and say that’s our final offer ... then no. No go,” Biden said.
And that brings us — as it always does these days — to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The Biden plan cannot pass the evenly split Senate without Manchin. As of now, the West Virginia senator is against it.
When I asked him on MetroNews’ “Talkline” on Friday if he thought the proposal was too big, he said. “Absolutely.” And he complimented Capito’s effort to get the discussions going.
“I think it [the GOP counterproposal] was a good-faith effort,” he said. “We need to work from that to see where we are going to go,” Manchin said. “I don’t think there is an appetite to put a big bill, $2.3 trillion, together.”
Manchin, like Capito, believes the country needs to make a major investment in infrastructure, that it should be for roads, bridges and other transportation-related projects, as well as broadband.
Not that many years ago, Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on spending for infrastructure. What politician does not want to cut a ribbon on a road project in their state? It would be beneficial for the country, and refreshing for our politics, if Congress and Biden could find a way to reach a compromise on an infrastructure bill.
Sens. Capito and Manchin are in unique positions of power to help make that happen.