We Can’t Let Build Back Better Be Replaced With Manchin’s Wish List

On October 28The White House released a cheerful statement affirming that President Obama had achieved a Build Back Better (BBB) framework with Sen. Joe Manchin, and other recalcitrant Democratic senators. It was, however wildly optimistic. Two months later, having already negotiated the size of Biden’s signature legislation down from more than $3 trillion to not much more than half that amount, Senator Manchin pulled the plug on the entire package.

Biden was humiliated when Build Back Better fell apart. It was not only a PR disaster, but it also (temporarily at least) killed off a number of vital social infrastructures and environmental investments, including child tax credits and the creation of a truly nation infrastructure to support the growing electric vehicle fleets on American roads.

With the midterm elections less than nine months away Democratic leaders are trying to salvage parts of the bill and deliver on them legislatively. It may prove to be no more difficult to break down the bill into its component parts than it was to pass it as a whole last year.

Senator Manchin is enjoying the enormous power that his opposition against BBB has given him. denies that he is currently negotiating a new legislative frameworkWith the White House. But behind the scenes, some efforts do seem to be underway to resurrect key elements of BBB, so that Democrats don’t approach the midterms entirely empty-handed.

Biden said to reporters that he believed it was likely that Biden would be elected on January 20. BBB would be broken up into individual billsSo that hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy investments and tax credits can be accelerated,

Biden can be encouraged by this. After all, Senator Manchin is on record — for whatever that is worth these days — as supporting some of the climate change components of the legislation. Yet, despite this, the president’s upbeat language regarding the possibility of bold legislation passing in the current sclerotic Senate environment came off as naive, rather than as the sober thinking of the great inter- and intra-party negotiator that Biden fashions himself as being.

Manchin will be flexing his political muscles once again before any deal can be made. The West Virginian opposes a methane fee on gas producers, has come out againstA tax credit to be used for the purchase of electric vehicles made by unions. Manchin, opposes a universal child tax credit and moving the country toward a free community college system — both of which were central policy goals of progressives when BBB was initially crafted.

Each time BBB is redesigned in a way that suits Manchin’s mood, the progressive wing of the party — which threw its support behind the $1 trillion “bipartisan” infrastructure bill only on the promise that the Senate would then pass BBB, and which already feels cheated by Manchin’s subsequently having sabotaged the legislation — loses more of its priorities. There’s no guarantee that they will agree to break up BBB if it means ultimately sacrificing key pieces of social infrastructure legislation, as well as tax credits that encourage Americans to buy union-made products.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has indeed been successful. called on the Senate to pass BBB in its entirety by March 1So that Biden can boast its passage in his upcoming State of the Union address, CPC head Pramila Jayapal, who put her political credibility on the line by breaking with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other so-called Squad members, and voting for the infrastructure legislation without simultaneous passage of BBB, has been scathing in her criticism of Manchin’s opposition to the latter legislation, saying it showed a “lack of integrity.” The CPC’s feeling of betrayal will make it harder for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to rally enough Democrats to pass a series of individual policies that lose the overarching transformative character of BBB and replace it with a Manchin-dictated wish list.

Even if progressives are not can work with Manchin, perhaps in exchange for his being willing to throw his support behind some of their other priorities, such as reining in the uniquely high drug prices Big Pharma charges in the U.S. market, it’s possible that, at that point, the other Senate holdout, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, will step in to take the kibosh on it.

For while Manchin has expressed distaste for Big Pharma’s squeeze on U.S. consumers, Sinema has gone to bat in defense of the pharmaceutical behemoths and against price restrictions in recent months. Despite the fact that her path to Senate was marked by positive statements and intentions regarding the environment, Sinema has shown that she is willing stop at BBB to secure the necessary environmental investments to protect the pharmaceutical sector, which has become a major concern. vast source of contributionsher campaigns in the past few years.

It’s possible that Biden might yet be able to square this circle. It’s possible that his much-touted negotiating skills will indeed kick in and somehow find points of agreement (and mutual trust) between progressives, Manchin, Sinema, and all the other parts of the Democratic constellation. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.