Narrowed Build Back Better Plan Could Come as Manchin Signals Support
WASHINGTON — Hopes for the passage of a revamped version of the Build Back Better Act were renewed last week after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., indicated he could support a scaled-down version.
Manchin’s objections to the version of the bill passed by the House in November stalled the bill in the Senate. There, Democrats could pass the revised version of the bill and avoid a Republican filibuster under the special budget reconciliation process.
In February, Manchin shot down the prospects of the bill’s passage after talks with the White House fizzled out due to disagreements over its price tag. While Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill last week he has yet to make any formal counterproposal to the White House, he said he is working on one that could satisfy his Senate Democratic Caucus colleagues while reducing federal deficits.
“Something is better than nothing for our supporters of the bill and it really looks like we’re down to that,” Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and political science professor at Michigan State University, told The Well News. “So certainly, there’s a lot of people saying that they should give Manchin whatever he is willing [to take] to go for it, especially since it doesn’t appear that he is demanding anything that people don’t want in the bill, it’s just a question of how much is in it. And that’s usually a recipe for compromise.”
Part of Manchin’s reason for dismissing the initial proposal had to do with the process of hammering out details with President Joe Biden, Grossmann said. Controversy ensued when Manchin came forward with a direct proposal to the White House in December, but certain details — such as a lack of funding for the long-term continuation of the Child Tax Credit — were subsequently leaked to the press and led Manchin to signal his disapproval in an interview with Fox News.
In order to keep Manchin on board with the proposal, Grossmann said Democrats not only have to cave on the bill’s substance but also on its process. Manchin’s take-it-or-leave-it approach to negotiating the bill is apparently the only way for him to support it in the narrowly divided Senate.
Some of the proposed concessions would keep major provisions of the bill intact while reducing their costs by shortening the duration of some programs in the bill. Doing so would reduce the overall costs of implementation while still containing the palatable provisions Democrats had hoped for.
“They have already sort of decided, especially on the climate side, that this is mostly going to be an investment approach rather than a cost approach,” Grossmann said. “And that’s … always the easiest thing to pass. It’s very hard to impose costs on anyone, and much easier to just hand out benefits.
“So there’s still kind of an open question as to whether that will work or not,” Grossmann continued. “There’s plenty of people who think that it will, but it’s different than anything like imposing a carbon tax or a carbon price that we’ve been talking about in the past.”
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