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Manchin, Republicans upend Biden’s agenda, won’t back $2 trillion bill

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In this Dec. 13, 2021, photo, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., leaves his office after speaking with President Joe Biden about his long-stalled domestic agenda, at the Capitol in Washington. Manchin’s reluctance to endorse the Biden administration’s expanded child tax credit program is rippling through his home state of West Virginia. Manchin, a moderate Democrat, is one of the last holdouts delaying passage of President Joe Biden’s massive social and environmental package. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, along with all Republicans, all but delivered a death blow to President Joe Biden’s 10-year, $2 trillion domestic initiative, throwing his party’s agenda into jeopardy, infuriating the White House and leaving angry colleagues desperate to salvage what’s left of a top priority.

The news comes a week after Manchin voted for a $768-billion defense budget for 2022.

The West Virginia senator’s brazen announcement, delivered on “Fox News Sunday” after only a cursory heads-up to the president’s staff, potentially derails not only Biden’s “Build Back Better Act,” but sparks fresh questions over passing voting rights legislation and potentially other significant bills that would require his vote in the 50-50 Senate.

Republicans heralded Manchin, who lives on a Yacht in a DC harbor, for a maverick move in joining all GOP senators now halting Biden’s big social services and climate change package.

Progressive Democrats mercilessly portrayed Manchin as a deal-breaker who failed to keep his word, and even moderates heaped on criticism after months of talks. Whether the senator, a lifelong Democrat, is making a definitive break from his party also became part of the discussion.

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With Congress recessed for the holidays, the next steps are highly uncertain. Some Democrats insisted on recalling the Senate to session to force a vote, though that appeared unlikely. Others were fast at work trying to win back Manchin’s support and pick up the pieces of what one aide compared to a jigsaw puzzle tossed on the floor. Biden’s reputation as a seasoned deal-maker hung in balance.


WHAT’S IN BUILD BACK BETTER (White House framework):

The most transformative investment in children and caregiving in generations:

  • Offers universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, the largest expansion of universal and free education since states and communities across the country established public high school 100 years ago.
  • Makes the largest investment in child care in the nation’s history, saving most American families more than half of their spending on child care.
  • Delivers affordable, high-quality care for older Americans and people with disabilities in their homes, while supporting the workers who provide this care.
  • Provides 39 million households up to $3,600 (or $300 per month) in tax cuts per child by extending the American Rescue Plan’s expanded Child Tax Credit.

The biggest expansion of affordable health care in a decade:

  • Reduces prescription drug costs.
  • Strengthens the Affordable Care Act and reduces premiums for 9 Million Americans.
  • Closes the Medicaid Coverage Gap, Leading 4 Million Uninsured People to Gain Coverage.
  • Expands Medicare to cover hearing benefits.

The most significant effort to bring down costs and strengthen the middle class in generations:

  • Makes the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history.
  • Extends the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for around 17 million low-wage workers.
  • Expands access to affordable, high-quality education beyond high school.
  • Promotes nutrition security to support children’s health.
  • Strengthens the middle class through a historic investment in equity, safety, and fairness.
  • Invests in immigration reform.

The Build Back Better framework is fully paid for:

  • Combined with savings from repealing the Trump Administration’s rebate rule, the plan is fully paid for by asking more from the very largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The 2017 tax cut delivered a windfall to them, and this would help reverse that—and invest in the country’s future. No one making under $400,000 will pay a penny more in taxes.

Specifically, the framework:

  • Stops large, profitable corporations from paying zero in tax and tax corporations that buyback stock rather than invest in the company.
  • Stops rewarding corporations for shipping jobs and profits overseas.
  • Asks the highest income Americans to pay their fair share.
  • Invests in enforcing our existing tax laws, so the wealthy pay what they owe.

The largest effort to combat climate change in American history:

  • Delivers substantial consumer rebates and tax credits to reduce costs for middle class families shifting to clean energy and electrification.
  • Ensures clean energy technology – from wind turbine blades to solar panels to electric cars – will be built in the United States with American made steel and other materials, creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs here at home.
  • Advances environmental justice through a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator that will invest in projects around the country, while delivering 40% of the benefits of investment to disadvantaged communities, as part of the President’s Justice40 initiative.
  • Bolsters resilience and natural solutions to climate change through a historic investment in coastal restoration, forest management, and soil conservation.

“We knew he would do this,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, a leader of House progressives, said Manchin can no longer say “he is a man of his word.”

“If he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont who chairs the Budget Committee, said on CNN.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to strike an optimistic chord, assuring House Democrats and others that an agreement could still be reached early in the new year. Rather than denouncing Manchin — her statement Sunday night didn’t mention him by name — Pelosi encouraged members of her caucus to highlight the measure’s impact on constituents while “barnstorming” the nation in the weeks ahead.

“It is imperative that American families know how this once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure will improve their lives,” Pelosi said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki unleashed an unusually hardball response to a lawmaker had been personally courted by the president, and whose vote is crucial.

“We will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word,” Psaki said.

Manchin said on Sunday that after five-and-half months of negotiations among Democrats, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.”

Manchin said: “I can’t get there.”

While Manchin appeared steadfast in his opposition, his choice of words about this specific bill seemed to keep open the door to continued talks with Biden and fellow Democrats over reshaping it.

Yet the West Virginia senator all but said the bill would die unless it met his consistent demands for a smaller package — something that would be hard for many Democrats in the narrowly divided Congress to accept, even if they had few other options.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of party leadership, said her fight for all the bill can provide “will not stop until it’s on the President’s desk.”

The package would provide hundreds of billions of dollars to help millions of families by creating free preschool and bolstering child care aid. It would shore up federal subsidies for health insurance and expand access to Medicaid in states that have not done so.

There is more than $500 billion for tax breaks and spending aimed at curbing carbon emissions, many key provisions Manchin specifically negotiated, which experts consider the largest federal expenditure ever to combat climate change.

Other provisions would limit prescription drug price increases, create hearing benefits for Medicare recipients and bolster aid for the elderly, housing and job training. Nearly all of it would be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

A potential new deadline for Biden and his party comes with the expiration of an expanded child tax credit that has been sending up to $300 monthly directly to millions of families’ bank accounts. If Congress fails to act, the money won’t arrive in January.

Despite months of talks, negotiations between Biden and Manchin erupted this week, foreshadowing no year-end deal.

Psaki said in her statement that Manchin had “in person” given Biden a written proposal last Tuesday that was “the same size and scope” of a framework for the bill that Democrats rallied behind in October, and agreed he’d continue talks. That framework had a 10-year cost of $1.85 trillion. Officials hadn’t previously disclosed that Tuesday meeting.

There are different accounts of what transpired next, but the conversation did not go well. One person familiar with the closed-door talks said that after Manchin introduced the idea of cutting the child tax credit the conversation turned hot. The person insisted on anonymity to share details of the talks.

The Associated Press had previously reported Biden and Manchin moved further apart.

By Sunday, a Manchin aide gave the White House about a 20-minute notice before the lawmaker announced his position on national television, said another person familiar with the senator’s actions who described them only on condition of anonymity.

Manchin’s declaration was a stunning repudiation of Biden’s and his party’s top goal, calling to mind the famous thumbs-down vote by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that killed President Donald Trump’s 2017 effort to repeal the health care law enacted under President Barack Obama. Other problems with Biden’s package have arisen, caused by another moderate Democrat, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, but Manchin’s stands out.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, had spent weeks trying to turn Manchin against the bill and said “I very much appreciate” Manchin’s opposition.

A rejection of the legislation has been seen by many as unthinkable because of the political damage it could inflict on Democrats, particularly ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when their control of Congress seems in doubt.

“Failure is not an option,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., who reiterated moderates’ desire to see the bill refocused on fewer programs.

Manchin said he was opposing the 10-year, roughly $2 trillion bill because of his concerns about inflation, growing federal debt and a need to focus on the omicron COVID-19 variant.

He also wants the bill’s initiatives to last the measure’s full 10-year duration, but that’s a tall order — the Democrats specifically made many of them temporary to keep the bill’s overall price tag closer to what Manchin said he could live with.

Democrats dismiss Manchin’s assertions that the bill would fuel inflation and worsen budget deficits. They say its job training, education and other initiatives would spur economic growth and curb inflation long-term.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Randy Hubert

    December 21, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    This bill would send the cohntry to far in dept. Lets simplify it. Eliminate 8 zeroes from the budget and put it into a houshold budget language. Annual family income $21,700 Money family spent 38,200 New debt on crddit card $16,500 Outstanding balance on credit cards $292,710 Total budget cuts so far $385 How can you justify spending more.

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