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Democratic former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe — who is seeking a second, nonconsecutive term — said a $3.5 trillion price tag is “too high” for Democrats’ sweeping go-it-alone social spending budget reconciliation bill in Congress.
McAuliffe was asked about the bill’s price tag in a gubernatorial debate against Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, a first-time candidate and former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group private equity firm.
“I think the three-point-five's too high. Sure,” McAuliffe said.
His opposition to the bill’s top line comes at a critical time for the legislation in Congress. Centrist Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both of whom need to vote for the bill for it to pass, have also expressed concern with the price tag and some of the contents. Progressive Democrats in the House are pushing to pass the reconciliation bill before a separate bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, threatening to sink the latter if it comes up for a scheduled vote on Thursday.
While an initial framework passed in Congress authorized the size of the reconciliation bill to be up to $3.5 trillion, details of the legislation are still being negotiated, and the top line is likely to come down.
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged on ABC that it “seems self-evident” the reconciliation bill will be less than $3.5 trillion.
Despite it being apparent the price tag will come down, it is nonetheless significant McAuliffe chose to distance himself from the figure for a bill Democratic leaders have branded as “transformative.”
Election analysts at the Cook Political Report rated Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial election as a “toss-up” between McAuliffe and Youngkin. With high stakes in the campaign, McAuliffe could think supporting a high price tag could not help him win support from voters — a dynamic that could also affect Democrats in competitive congressional races heading into 2022.
The $3.5 trillion figure was largely negotiated by fellow Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner.
McAuliffe appeared to push Congress to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate and is scheduled for a Thursday vote in the House.
“Here's my message to Congress: I'm really sick and tired of — you know what, they ought to follow the Virginia model,” McAuliffe said. “When I was governor, in a bipartisan way, Chuck, I got education done, I got transportation done … We do things in a bipartisan way, they got to stop their little chitty-chat up there, and it's time for them to pass it.”
McAuliffe is not only a former Virginia governor but also a longtime Democratic operative. He is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and co-chairman of former President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign.
Youngkin was also asked about the infrastructure debate in Congress, particularly whether he thinks House Republicans should vote for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. While 19 Senate Republicans supported the bill, House Republican leadership is whipping against it, arguing it is linked to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan.
“I believe that there is a — there is a good future in the infrastructure bill, and I look forward to those funds coming to Virginia and putting them to work,” Youngkin said.
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Original Author: Emily Brooks