The Sausage Making: Manchin Takes His Revenge

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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Your intermittent update on how Build Back Better negotiations are going (quite poorly, at the moment).

A buoyant Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is back in the Senate Thursday after collaborating with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Senate Republicans to uphold the filibuster and block voting rights legislation.

Less than pleased with the pressure campaign his fellow Democrats mounted against him, he’s sliding back into his old role smoothly: chief antagonist to Democrats’ attempts to pass the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. 

When asked if his old offer to the White House was still on the table, he cheerfully said no. 

“I’m hoping to talk to everybody — we’ll just start with a clean sheet of paper and start over,” he told reporters. “We’ll just be starting from scratch, whenever we start.”

At this point, Manchin could craft the reconciliation bill any way he wanted. He could stuff it with goodies for West Virginia, demand it be renamed the “Joe Manchin Is The World’s Sexiest Man Act.” Instead, he’s choosing to start over. After forcing months of delay, he will apparently burn more clock. It sure seems like he’s trying to drag the process out so long that Republicans retake at least one chamber of Congress, killing the bill for good. 

“It’s not just this vote,” an angry Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Wednesday after Manchin and Sinema killed the filibuster reform. “These are people who I think have undermined the President of the United States. They have forced us to go through five months of discussions which have gotten absolutely nowhere.”

Chunk It Up 

  • During a press conference to mark his one-year anniversary in office, President Joe Biden suggested that Congress will be able to pass “big chunks” of the reconciliation bill. “It’s clear to me that we’re going to have to probably break it up,” he said. 
  • Breaking the package up into a number of smaller bills would likely not work. Without the reconciliation workaround, they’d all crash up against the Republican filibuster. 
  • “If you split it up, I think that’s gonna be the challenge,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said. “I think it requires different reconciliation bills.”
  • Biden may have meant winnowing down the package to whatever Manchin will let pass, and breaking off other pieces to (hypothetically) pass separately. 
  • “It’s hard, because we have the skinniest possible majority, and that means it takes every vote,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said. “We’re not going to get one damn vote from the Republicans for childcare, for reducing the cost of prescription drugs, or for making billionaire corporations pay their taxes. So we’ve got to shoulder this by ourselves as Democrats.” 
  • The question remains whether one Democrat in particular wants any version of this bill to pass at all. So far, it doesn’t look like it.

Child Tax Credit 

  • The credit has shrunk down in size, now that the enhanced version was allowed to expire. It’s also no longer available to people who make so little income that they don’t pay taxes. 
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), for his part, is unmoved. “You know what’s interesting you didn’t mention that also happened with those checks?” he asked a reporter Thursday. “The Boston bomber got a check.”
  • It’s not clear where Manchin is on the CTC in this moment. He has previously wanted to tie it to work requirements, fretted that people will use it to buy drugs and bemoaned the whole idea of an “entitlement society.” 
  • “We’re continuing those discussions and we’re gonna fight like hell for it,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said. The child poverty rate, meanwhile, could balloon.
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