Democrats Changing Approach to Pass Build Back Better Bill

President Biden this month offered a new path forward for his signature policy proposal based on a harsh truth: not all of it will survive. The President’s concession that some of the social spending and climate change package will need to be removed marks a clear turning point for Democrats, some of whom have been insisting that something is better than nothing in a midterm year.

The path to a deal centers on what Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) can support that will be acceptable to the rest of the party. With Democrats maintaining a razor-thin majority in the upper chamber with 48 Democrats and two caucusing Independents, Senator Manchin’s vote is critical to the overall package’s survival. The White House and Senate Democratic leaders have struggled for months to solve that puzzle, and it remains an open question as to whether they still can.

On the eve of his one-year anniversary as president, Biden laid out one last path forward to breaking the Senate stalemate on the original bill. “It’s clear to me ... that we’re going to have to probably break it up,” Biden told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. “I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues on the Hill—I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the $500-plus billion for energy and the environmental issues that are there.”

There’s still more wrangling ahead to get Manchin’s support, but the Senate is up against a clock that’s ticking down until the midterms. The Senate does not have forever to figure this out or start from scratch, because it also must confirm nominees to both the administration and judiciary while averting a government shutdown in February.

Biden suggested Democrats could reach a deal with Manchin and the other holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), with a slimmed-down version of Build Back Better, possibly by cutting back on the child tax credit and free community college. Importantly, Biden said that even with concessions to Manchin, they could preserve the climate provisions. Then Democrats might take another shot at passing these other priorities later this year.