Manchin Seems to Have Thrown Build Back Better out the Window

It should be remembered that there were two ambitious spending bills before Congress this year: the bipartisan infrastructure bill, mostly about roads, rails, and broadband, which both chambers of Congress passed with some Republican support and Biden signed.  In the Senate, of course, a bipartisan bill needs ten Republicans to overcome a filibuster, and this bill had the votes of nineteen Republicans as well as all of the Senate Democrats, including the two difficult moderates, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.  But the Build Back Better act was a whole other story.

The Build Back Better act had many provisions that come more in the category of social welfare than what is usually referred to as infrastructure.  Manchin and Sinema weren’t adamantly against this bill; they just wanted it scaled down.  But for the last few weeks, while Sinema appears to have come on board, it’s been harder and harder for Democrats to understand exactly what it will take to make this bill palatable to Manchin.  And now, on Sunday, December 19, Manchin said in a Fox News interview that he’s not voting for it.

Manchin’s announcement blindsided President Biden and many other Democrats, who thought that they were coming closer and closer to reaching an agreement with Manchin.  Now, Democrats in the Congress are in two camps: those who want to keep on trying to come to an agreement with Manchin, and those who want to give up on Manchin and just have Biden do what he can with executive orders.  The trouble is, what Biden can do with executive orders is limited.  He’s already, though regulatory agencies, calling for higher green standards with new automobiles in the coming years (climate change was a major priority in the BBB bill), but regulations like this can easily be reversed when a new president comes in.

Some of the Progressives, of course, didn’t even want to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill if it wasn’t accompanied by BBB, and now they’re saying “I told you so.”  (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the ones saying that.)

There is, of course, a new session of Congress starting in January, but as I keep saying, all it takes is one Democrat in the Senate to die and not be replaced by another Democrat for the party to lose its precarious 50-50 + 1 majority.

Article in Politico, December 20, 2021

Article in Politico, December 20, 2021

Description of Build Back Better, as passed by the House in November

Description of Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, as signed by Biden in November

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