For months, the White House and Democratic leadership in Congress have courted Senator Joe Manchin’s vote (D-WV) for the Build Back Better Act (BBBA); perhaps the top priority from the Biden Administration since taking office. As a Democratic senator in a state where 68.6% of residents voted for Donald Trump in 2020, Manchin has frequently been a key swing vote during the Biden presidency. 61% of his constituents believed Manchin should vote against the BBBA, with 70% of voters electing Manchin because they believe he is an independent voice. According to a December 9th NPR/Marist poll, here’s how the rest of America feels about the BBBA.
- 41% support the legislation, 34% oppose it, and 25% are unsure. (NPR/Marist)
- A plurality are optimistic that it will help create better paying jobs (46%).
- However, only 42% think it will help people like themselves. 35% believe it will lower inflation 35%.
On Sunday, the Senator announced on Fox News that he would not support the measure as it currently stands. The announcement effectively kills the BBBA, as no Republican senators are likely to support the legislation.
The Build Back Better Act (BBBA), as it currently stands, is a roughly $1.75 trillion social safety net and climate bill. Republicans oppose the bill amidst rising inflation and a massive federal deficit. Senate Democrats wanted to circumvent this resistance by passing the bill through a budgetary process called reconciliation, which allows bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority. The bill covers many issues and does some of the following:
- Allocates over $550 billion in climate change and clean energy initiatives.
- $14,000 to homeowners who lower energy use by installing technology. Only unionized electrical contractors qualify.
- Allocates $400 billion for child care and universal preschool and caps child care costs to no more than 7% of a family’s income.
- First-generation down-payment assistance giving $6.8 billion to low-income first-time homebuyers with no conditions. First-time homebuyers can get up to $20,000 and never have to pay it back, whether they stay in the home or move for virtually any reason.
- Expands Medicare to cover hearing services.
- Extends the child tax credit for one year, which gives families $3,600 per child under age 6, and $3,000 per child ages 6-18. Just 35% of those polled believe child tax credit should be permanent.
- Gives qualifying American workers four weeks of paid family and medical leave.
- Allocates $150 billion to build or improve nearly one million affordable housing units and give rent and down-payment assistance.
- Lower premiums for those covered under the Affordable Care Act and provide coverage for up to four million Americans who are currently uninsured.
- Allocates $158 billion for Medicare to help cover home care services for the elderly and those with disabilities.
- Imposes a 15% minimum corporate tax, a 1% surcharge on corporate stock buybacks, a 5% tax rate above those with an income over $10 million, and another 3% surtax on income over $25 million.
- Gives $80 billion to the Internal Revenue Service to modernize and strengthen its enforcement of American tax law.
- Raises State and Local Tax deduction (SALT) caps that limit how much state and local taxes individuals can deduct from their federal taxes from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2031; this provision would be one of the most expensive provisions, costing roughly $400 billion and analysts say that it would primarily benefit those who make $200,000 a year or more.
Democrats currently hold narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress, with only an eight-member lead in the House and the 50-50 split in the Senate, where Vice President Harris acts as a tie-breaker. An increasingly bitter divide between progressive and centrist Democratic lawmakers has complicated the situation even further. To navigate this delicate circumstance, the Biden Administration sought to pass two pieces of its agenda together: the BBBA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The infrastructure bill originated in the Senate, where a group of Democratic and Republican senators negotiated the $1 trillion bill and passed it in a 69-30 vote. Shortly after, the House approved a $3.5 trillion version of the BBBA in a party-line vote.
Progressives feared that centrist Democratic senators, primarily Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), would not support the BBBA. Meanwhile, in the House, moderate Democrats threatened to tank the BBBA if the House did not pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The White House and Democratic leadership sought to address the concerns of all sects of the Democratic Party with its plan to pass the bills simultaneously. Republicans viewed that coupling as an attempt to bundle good policy with bad policy in the hopes of Republicans voting for Democratic priorities. However, this plan ultimately failed as the House passed the infrastructure bill without the Senate passing the BBBA or ironclad commitments from Manchin and Sinema. Additionally, following concerns from the two key senators about the bill’s price tag, lawmakers revised the package to be half the cost at $1.75 trillion. Last month, the House passed the new version of the bill and renewed calls for the Senate to pass the legislation.
Progressives have widely blasted Manchin’s announcement. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a member of “the Squad,” slammed Manchin’s “corporatist ego” and said it illustrated why the House should have held its ground on passing both bills simultaneously. Fellow Squad member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) echoed her colleague’s sentiment and said that America’s “democracy is on the line.” Even White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki criticized the move, saying the announcement contradicted private commitments Manchin made to the White House. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers praised Manchin for his choice. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) praised Manchin’s decision as statesmanlike, saying, “It's something that is completely lost in Washington right now.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the bill, “the single most reckless and irresponsible spending in the history of this country.”
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised a path forward for the bill, it seems likely that Manchin’s decision will end all hopes of passing the BBBA.