Democrats put off building better in Joe Manchin court

WASHINGTON—Democrats are increasingly willing to accept any child care, health care and climate services package Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) backs upon their return to Washington this week, in the hope of salvaging elements of the party’s economic program. after months of fruitless negotiations.

Party lawmakers have begun to change their attitude toward the package as they grapple with the possibility of not converting their tight control of Congress into progress on key party goals. Some stopped insisting that the package include particular priorities, arguing instead for the party to secure a result with Mr Manchin before the midterm elections.

“Democrats can’t let our disappointment get in the way of progress on something we’ve worked hard to achieve,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.), the Senate candidate.

Many Democrats are eager to start crafting legislation after Mr. Manchin’s rejection of the House-passed Build Back Better bill put talks on ice for weeks. In an interview broadcast in West Virginia, Manchin said talks had resumed on the bill, adding that he was primarily focused on a separate effort on bipartisan election legislation.

“There are a lot of conversations going on, they have reached out. We did not physically sit down or enter into any negotiations,” Mr Manchin said on Thursday. “I think taking care of our vote and protecting our right to vote and protecting the ballot box is the most important and urgent thing we have right now.”

Because Mr. Manchin’s support is needed for Democrats to pass the legislation through the Senate 50-50 over the Republican opposition, he should largely control if, and when, the party goes ahead with it. a package, which has been President Biden’s centerpiece. economic agenda. Mr Manchin has repeatedly pushed to slow down work on the legislation and continued to worry about whether the bill could contribute to higher inflation.

“We need to move in a new direction,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said, calling on Democrats to put the Build Back Better provisions to a vote.


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Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Associated Press

Some Democrats expect it will be weeks or even months before he agrees to a package, and lawmakers meanwhile are looking to bills to fund the government after Feb. 18 and boosting American technological competitiveness. The party will also soon address the process of confirming Mr. Biden’s eventual Supreme Court pick.

The White House is also expected to unveil a list of emergency expenses soon, such as fresh cash for the coronavirus pandemic. These expenses could cover money for testing as well as next-generation vaccines.

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A new winnowing of the childcare, health care and climate package, which the party had pegged at $3.5 trillion before passing a roughly $2 trillion package in the House, could constitute a test for progressive Democrats who have sought a radical set of policies. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said last week the Senate is expected to pass the House package by March 1.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said negotiations with Mr. Manchin had failed, calling on the party to put the bill’s provisions to a vote.

“The current direction we have been following for the past five months has failed. We have to go in a new direction,” Mr. Sanders said.

Lawmakers and aides have begun to identify their priorities for a package that funds a smaller number of long-term programs – a key request from Mr. Manchin.

Many Democrats see about $550 billion in carbon-cutting incentives, which Mr. Manchin has indicated he supports, at the heart of the package, along with programs to reduce prescription drug prices and to subsidize health insurance coverage. They also hope to include funding for universal grants for kindergarten and child care, as well as a series of tax increases on corporations and very high-income Americans.

“Let’s find the things that really make the biggest difference and move on them as fast as we can,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “I don’t want to drag out this process,” he said.

Missing from such a package could be provisions such as housing finance, health insurance coverage for hearing and an expansion of the child tax credit, which many Democrats have embraced as a central goal of the left. During negotiations with the White House in December, Mr. Manchin offered a package that included climate provisions, health care subsidies and universal pre-kindergarten, according to people who know him.

“It looks like we’ll probably never be successful in Build Back Better, but maybe we could be successful in these things in Build Back Better,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D., SC), the No. 3 House Democrat He added that his priorities were to restore the improved Child Tax Credit and to include provisions to make housing more affordable.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said many Democrats would likely accept any deal they can strike with Mr. Manchin, even if they’re disappointed.

“What are you going to do, you introduce a bill that the president supports and the president supports and takes historic action on the climate and gives free pre-K to every three and four year old in America and a progressive will say ‘No, am I going to vote against?’ he said. “How am I going to explain this?”

“Manchin should have the pen, we should respect that whatever he wants to do will be reasonable and ultimately historic,” he added.

Many Democrats consider around $550 billion in carbon-cutting incentives to be central to a smaller Build Back Better package.


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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The possibility that Democrats will pass none of the bill’s provisions has also begun to worry some companies. The Democrats’ bill includes higher minimum taxes on foreign operations of U.S. companies, in line with the Biden administration’s commitment to a global tax deal.

Some companies are worried about a scenario in which other countries go ahead with their parts of the deal and the United States does not, said Craig Hillier, director at EY LLP which advises companies. multinationals. This could create a situation in which US companies face double taxation on their foreign profits, as other countries may not consider the existing but lower US minimum tax to comply with the agreement.

The thinking, Mr. Hillier said, is: “We may not like every aspect of Building Back Better, but it could be worse if we don’t pass these rules.

Some Democrats are taking steps to preserve threatened elements of the House bill, including lifting the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions and the expanded child tax credit. A group of Senate Democrats last week wrote a letter to Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris calling on them to pursue the expansion of the child tax credit in legislation.

As part of last year’s $1.9 trillion relief bill, Democrats expanded the size of the credit, offered it to more Americans and made it available in monthly payments. in cash for 2021. During the interview broadcast in West Virginia, Manchin again said the credit should target low-income Americans, a possible shift that other Democrats have begun exploring.

“I’m totally open to looking at anything and everything that helps people, but targeting it better,” Mr. Manchin said.

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