House and Senate Democrats say they are not giving up on passing President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation just one day after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin dealt a crippling blow to the measure by announcing his opposition.
Democratic leaders plan to keep trying to pass the legislation despite Manchin’s opposition, suggesting they’ll work on new incarnations of the plan until they can garner the votes needed to pass the Senate and the House.
“We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act,” House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday in a letter to Democrats. “And we will keep voting on it until we get something done.”
Democrats began tossing out ideas almost as soon as Manchin ended his interview on Fox News Sunday, when he told host Bret Baier, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation."
Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, quickly released the outline of a new Build Back Better measure that might win over Manchin. It would extend the expiring child tax credit, reduce prescription drugs and implement green energy policies with “technology-neutral incentives.”
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Manchin had balked at tax credits for renewable energy, arguing it was unfair to favor one energy sector over another. He also opposed a methane fee, which would have targeted natural gas and raised energy prices.
“Fossil fuels that get cleaner are eligible for incentives, just like solar or wind,” Wyden said, explaining his proposal.
Manchin said he supported the child tax credit, but not the one-year version proposed in Build Back Better. Wyden’s plan would keep it in place over the long term and said the tax increases outlined in the original bill would cover the cost.
Manchin said he supports reforming the tax code to make it more equitable but has pitched a lower rate of increase for corporations.
Manchin argued on a Hoppy Kercheval podcast episode Monday that Democrats unanimously opposed the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, a Republican bill signed by President Donald Trump. The bill cut individual and corporate rates, but Democrats believed big corporations and the wealthy benefited the most instead of those in lower-income brackets.
“If we all disagree with the Republicans' reconciliation on tax cuts, don't you think we could sit down and fix a fair and equitable tax code?” Manchin said.
He’s also interested in lowering prescription drug costs but does not want the government favoring one group of drugs over another.
Biden’s Build Back Better legislation would have allowed the federal government to negotiate prices for only some high-cost Medicare drugs and limit the cost of others under private insurance, including insulin. The legislation would have excluded negotiations to lower the price of a costly new Alzheimer’s medication for a decade.
“I say, if you're going to negotiate, then negotiate,” Manchin said. “Don't start picking and choosing and playing games.”
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Manchin also seeks work requirements and means-testing for subsidies, including the child tax credit, which under Build Back Better would include couples earning up to $150,000 and individual parents up to $112,000.
House Democrats have also chimed in on how to resurrect the measure.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the head of the powerful House Progressive Caucus, told reporters during a press call Monday that Democrats want Biden to circumvent Congressional gridlock entirely and implement parts of Build Back Better through executive action.
It’s straight out of the playbook of President Barack Obama, who successfully used his “pen and phone” to implement some long-held liberal goals, such as legalizing young people who arrived in the United States illegally as children.
Jayapal told reporters the list could include “climate” policies and eliminating student loans, although the group has yet to formulate a list of demands.
“It is now incumbent on President Biden to keep his promise to us and to the American people. By using the ultimate tool in his toolbox, the tool of executive actions, in every arena immediately,” Jayapal said.
Few, if any, major provisions of the measure can be enacted without the approval of Congress.
White House officials said they were blindsided by Manchin’s Sunday and issued a blistering statement. Schumer and other Democrats also turned on Manchin.
But nothing can pass the Senate without his support, and by Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to soften her tone, telling reporters Biden still views Manchin as a "friend" and that he plans to continue working with him to pass the Build Back Better legislation. Psaki said the White House would also "welcome" Republicans back to the negotiating table on the legislation, even though none support the bill.