Congressional Update: Sen. Manchin Temporarily Derails Build Back Better Budget Bill

In a move that surprised many in the Democratic party, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he could not support the current form of the Build Back Better Act (BBB) – President Biden’s partisan $1.75 trillion climate change, healthcare, and education package.

The House passed the BBB in November on partisan lines, while the legislation has been the subject of extensive debate and “Byrd Rule” determinations in the Senate.

Senator Manchin’s surprise announcement on Fox News came after negotiations between he and the White House deteriorated. The White House immediately fired back at Senator Manchin, alleging that he went back on his word.

Senator Manchin’s comments effectively eliminate passage of the current version of the BBB, as his vote is critical for Senate Democrats to secure the needed 50-vote threshold to pass a budget reconciliation measure.

Despite this apparent reality, the White House and Democratic members of Congress still believe a deal can be reached.
            Senator Manchin reportedly offered a counteroffer to the White House with billions in energy investments. In fact, some reported that Senator Manchin’s preferred package was similar to the White House’s proposal except that it excluded the Child Tax Credit.

Accordingly, the legislative effort for passing some type of reconciliation measure is by no means “dead” as some media reports indicate.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for a floor vote on a revised BBB when Congress is back in town next month, Speaker Pelosi is fully behind the effort (remember, she corralled her divergent caucus to pass BBB), and President Biden has vowed to keep the negotiations moving forward.

Should the current BBB move for a vote in the Senate, many Senators – knowing the bill will not pass – might also oppose it for political reasons. These Senators could include Senators Sinema (D-AZ), Kelly (D-AZ), Tester (D-MT), as well as members in contested 2022 elections like Sen. Hassan (D-NH).

Senator Manchin has expressed his desire to have both spending and revenue measures cover the full 10-year budget window, indicating that he is still open to negotiating.

Some Democrats, including New Democrat Coalition Chair Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), are expressing support for a proposal that would authorize fewer programs appropriately for a shorter timeframe.

When Congress returns in January, Democrats will have a challenge in messaging a strategy moving forward.

While an official date is not announced, President Biden is expected to present the State of the Union in late February or early March.

There will be a strong push from the White House to ensure President Biden can discuss his legislative achievements when he addresses the nation.

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