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Build Back Smaller?

Democrats initially envisioned a transformative piece of legislation expanding the social safety net, increasing efforts to combat climate change, and revising tax policy. Instead, rough patches have continuously plagued negotiations between Manchin and his colleagues. An unexpected avalanche has buried the prospects of moving forward on Build Back Better in its current form.

During his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he could no longer support Build Back Better.

“If I can’t go home and explain to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said. “This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”

Sen. Joe Manchin on Fox News Sunday disucssing Build Back Better.

From the onset, Mr. Manchin wielded enormous influence over the legislative process. He was able to extract significant concessions on the legislation. Democrats had to abandon many of their priorities in an attempt to gain his support. With all 50 Republicans in opposition, Democrats could not afford to lose a single vote from within their caucus.

The reconciliation bill’s overall price tag was reduced from $3.5 trillion to approximately $1.75 trillion. The removal of the Clean Energy Performance Program was a significant sacrifice for Democrats who strongly prioritized combating climate change. The program would have provided financial incentives to paid electric utility companies who switch to clean energy and penalized those who do not. Alternatives remained in play, such as a fee on methane emissions. Democrats also abandoned expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision; hearing remained in the bill. Tuition-free college and paid family leave were also subject to the chopping block.

Mr. Manchin has also criticized the bill, relying on “shell games” and “budget gimmicks” to disguise the actual long-term cost. In addition, he raised objections to the bill’s structure, including varying timeframes on programs and deceitful revenue-raising measures.

Mr. Manchin released a statement following his television appearance. He put forward his fiercest criticism of Democrats and their vision for the country.

“My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face. I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores, and utility bills with no end in sight.”

Sen. Manchin’s written statement regarding his opposition to Build Back Better.

The White House did not take kindly to his comments and issued an immediate statement on the situation. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in her statement, went as far as to question Manchin’s honesty in regards to his commitment to continued negotiations.

“Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responding to Sen. Manchin.

Reportedly, Mr. Manchin notified the White House of his decision via a staff member approximately an hour before going live on Fox News Sunday. Politico reported Mr. Manchin refused to take a call from White House staff before his appearance on Fox News Sunday.

Progressives were unsurprisingly infuriated. Sen. Bernie Sanders on CNN’s State of the Union angrily ripped Mr. Manchin. Mr. Sanders suggested that a vote on Build Back Better be held and force Mr. Manchin to vote no.

“But if he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders on CNN’s State of the Union.

Mr. Manchin has said he is willing to hold a vote.

Many progressives were uncomfortable with passing the physical infrastructure bill beforehand as opposed to together in fear of a situation such as this occurring. Their instincts proved to be correct as the physical infrastructure bill has been signed into law, and President Biden’s signature piece of legislation has no path forward.

Republicans, on the other hand, were ecstatic to hear of Mr. Manchin’s public opposition to Build Back Better.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has talked glowingly about his friendship with Manchin. He has stated that he prays for him every night and praises him as a senator. Whether political or sincere in his public statements, it leads one to question if the door opening further to a change in party affiliation for Mr. Manchin? Mr. Manchin has dismissed the prospects of such on numerous occasions. However, he did admit in an interview that it would be easier for him to be a Republican. Mr. McConnell has said he considers Mr. Manchin becoming a Republican unlikely but would certainly welcome it. Do not forget that in October, Mr. Manchin offered Democrats the option of leaving the party if he was a detriment to their messaging. Whether that meant still caucusing with Democrats as an Independent is unknown.

Mr. Manchin either outright becoming a Republican or becoming an Independent and caucusing with Republicans would be the ultimate burden for President Biden and Democrats. His life as a Democrat could very well become burdensome after making his decision to oppose Build Back Better.

Image Credit:“Inside Politics Press Breakfast – April 2013 featuring Sen. Joe Manchin III” by Third Way is licensed underCC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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