One Democratic Party holdout has stopped Biden’s Build Back Better plan in its tracks. On Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) declined to support Build Back Better, leaving many worried about legislation partly designed to slow climate change.
The Senate currently has 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents, who generally side with the Democrats. Manchin’s support was critical for Build Back Better.
The far-reaching plan included grants, tax credits and other policies to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Many environmentalists worry that now the US will fail to meet climate goals.
“Without Build Back Better, the 2030 target is certainly still feasible, but it’s going to be a lot harder to reach,” said John Larsen, a director at the Rhodium Group, an independent energy research firm, as reported by the Washington Post. “In one action, the federal government was going to get halfway there.”
In addition to funding the largest effort in U.S. history to combat climate change, Build Back Better promises two years of free preschool to every family, the biggest expansion of affordable health care coverage in a decade, programs to bring down costs for the middle class, a huge investment in childcare and eldercare, tax cuts for more than 35 million households and expands free school meal programs, among other things.
Manchin’s lack of support can’t really come as a huge shock to other Democrats. The West Virginia senator said for months that he wouldn’t back the plan if it cost more than $1.5 trillion, which he later expanded to $1.75 trillion. Instead, Biden’s plan cost considerably more. Critics accuse Manchin of valuing the millions he makes from his family’s waste coal business and his support for the oil and gas industry, over a clean energy future for America. Manchin says the plan’s price tag is too high, making him worried about inflation. He also thinks the childcare subsidies, child tax credits and paid family leave are too generous. Nor does he like being pushed around.
“I knew where they were, and I knew what they could and could not do,” said Manchin of his fellow Democrats on Monday in an interview with a West Virginia radio station. “They just never realized it, because they figured surely to God we can move one person, surely we can badger and beat one person up, surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough [that] they’ll just say, ‘I’ll go for anything. Just quit.’ Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period.”
Now the US will have to see if Build Back Better can be salvaged, perhaps in a scaled down model that focuses on climate change rather than packing so many aims into one plan.