Manchin says he is ready to talk. Can Democrats sell him on a new ‘Build Back Better’?

WASHINGTON – Democrats are working to resuscitate the President Joe Bidenits top domestic priority after it was flat last month amid the Opposition from Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a pivotal vote with the potential to make or break the ambitious bill.

The road to an agreement hinges on the elusive question of what the West Virginia center can support that is acceptable to the rest of the party. White House and Senate Democratic leaders have struggled for months to solve that puzzle, and it remains an open question whether they can still do it.

Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said it was time to make “big decisions” and pass the climate and social policy bill after discussions froze in the Senate. heated debate over voting rights.

“We have to have some private conversations and find space for agreement. We have been using our egos in our brains to complicate this issue. We have to figure out what gets 50 votes and then enact that,” Schatz, a member of the Democratic leadership, said in an interview.

On Thursday, Manchin showed openness in reviving negotiations.

“We’ll talk to everyone who wants to talk,” he told reporters before leaving the Capitol. “We’re going to start all over again.”

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden has outlined a route he believes can meet Manchin’s requirements and become law: focus the legislation on climate and clean energy funding, expand the Act’s funding Affordable Care legislation, universal pre-K, prescription drug savings and new tax revenues to fund it.

Wyden said Democrats have yet to decide on a final spending level but are listening closely to Manchin’s requests. “He wants to deal with inflation, arguing that the bill includes cost-restrictive policies,” Wyden said. He said Manchin “feels very strongly” that new programs will be established and funded over the course of 10 years. “We’ll do our best to make them permanent.”

Democrats are also discussing sweetening the deal for Manchin by additional provision for deficit reduction, a source familiar with the negotiations said, to address his outspoken concerns about debt and inflation.

Clean energy platform

Prominent Democrats have cited clean energy policy as the foundation of the revised bill. But Manchin, who has close personal, political and financial ties to fossil fuel interests in his state, is baffled on the matter. At the end of December, top Democrats were confident he was involved with about $550 billion in new climate measures, mainly green-tech incentive tax breaks, which he helped negotiate. judge and Manchin reported included as part of a previously extended December offer.

Even after the end of the Build Back Better talks, Manchin told reporters earlier this month that “the climate issue is an issue where we can come to an agreement much more easily than any other.” something else”. But he also expressed skepticism about the Democrats’ approach elsewhere and told reporters this week he would start from a “clear vehicle” on climate policy in any given year. What a new conversation.

“Sen. Manchin and I agreed on the foundation of this climate package seven years ago in the back seat of a truck in West Virginia,” Wyden said.

Democrats are proposing new approaches to avert another breakdown in the negotiations. Senator John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., said the party should “listen more” to colleagues’ requests.

Even if there is movement, it may not be easily noticeable in the coming weeks. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told The Wall Street Journal that any negotiations with Manchin will be private. The earlier leaks were the source of the senator’s astonishment.

“It would be nice if the main players were in the same room and trying to come up with a solution before they left that room,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.,.

Manchin’s red lines have Democrats questioned hard about other terms such as expanded Medicare benefits for hearing aids and affordable housing credits, which enjoy strong support among core constituencies. His preferred revenue-enhancing measures, like higher corporate tax rates, could clash with Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who opposes rate hikes largely resulting in oversupply finance the bill passed by the House, which Manchin says he cannot support.

Can the Child Tax Credit Exist?

Democrats may be reluctant publicize what items they will drop for fear of offending key allies and interest groups unless Manchin agrees to a deal first. Another stumbling block is that Congress is facing a February 18 deadline to fund the government, a sophisticated bipartisan negotiation that a public breakthrough in the Build Back Better talks could have. could be complicated by activating the Republican opposition.

One damage of the amendment could be monthly child tax credit payments, at least in its recent form that expired this month. Democratic leaders are not willing to give up, but it will be difficult to expand costly policy in a way that pleases Manchin.

“The child tax credit is a tangible benefit to families right now as they’re dealing with Omicron and additional costs, so we’re going to fight like hell for it,” Wyden said.

The permanent expansion of enhanced child payments will cost about $1.6 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Even the original $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan opted for a five-year extension to make room for other priorities. The House bill only includes a one-year extension, but would make a key anti-poverty feature – refundable tax credits – permanent. However, making things more difficult for those who favor the backers of that credit is the ability to pay in full is a feature Manchin is particularly skeptical of.

However, Senate Democrats are still exploring smaller iterations of the Child Tax Credit with more modest credits, a narrower income range, and even a W- 2 in response to Manchin’s concern about non-working people receiving benefits.

The fate of an expanded state and local tax – or SALT – deduction is also unclear because Representatives Tom Suozzi, DN.Y., Josh Gottheimer, DN.J. and Mikie Sherrill, DN.J., restated their need in a statement Thursday: “No SALT, no deal.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed the idea of ​​breaking up the bill and voting it on pieces, noting that the virus evidence mediation process might not be practical for a second bill.

“What the president calls a block, I hope will be a big bill in the future. It could be more restrictive. But it’s still very important,” she told reporters on Thursday. “Remember this: This is a collation bill, so when people say break it up, they don’t understand the process.”

She said Democrats may have to “rename” the bill. Manchin says he is ready to talk. Can Democrats sell him on a new ‘Build Back Better’?

Jake Nichol

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