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Democrats again revise "Build Back Better Act" after latest Joe Manchin objections

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who on Sunday said he could not support the Build Back Better Act, which includes massive spending for climate mitigation and adaptation.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who on Sunday said he could not support the Build Back Better Act, which includes billions to fight climate change.

Joe Manchin, the sole Democratic Senator from West Virginia (and a man with deep ties to the coal industry), publicly stated over the weekend that he could not support the first truly significant piece of climate spending legislation in U.S. history -- leaving Democrats scrambling to find ways to sway his vote.

Manchin's public reservations come down to the ways Democrats are accounting for the "Build Back Better Act" and its many spending provisions. The Senator issued a statement after appearing on Fox News, calling for more fiscal responsibility, attention to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation.

Manchin, whose family has made millions thanks to the coal trading business that he founded and that his family still owns, also had choice words for the bill's support for renewable energy.

"If enacted, the bill will... risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains. The energy transition my colleagues seek is already well underway in the United States of America," Manchin wrote in his statement. "In the last two years, as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and with bipartisan support, we have invested billions of dollars into clean energy technologies so we can continue to lead the world in reducing emissions through innovation. But to do so at a rate that is faster than technology or the markets allow will have catastrophic consequences for the American people like we have seen in both Texas and California in the last two years."

These concerns are largely unfounded. Indeed, the spending in the bill is meant to shore up domestic supply chains for raw materials and create the kind of independence that the Senator says is so important.

Some of the bill's measures could also go a long way towards lowering costs to consumers for electric vehicles as increasing demand for raw materials and tight supply chains push battery costs higher.

Claims that renewable energy was to blame for energy grid failures in Texas and California are also false.

While the remainder of Manchin's concerns hinge on fiscal responsibility, some of the world's largest banks have said that the Senator's objections will actually hurt American GDP.

Goldman Sachs issued a report on Sunday after Manchin's announcement that revised its measurement of the size of the US economy and its projected growth down to 2% from 3% in the first quarter.

“A failure to pass BBB has negative growth implications,” Bloomberg reported the bank saying in a report to industry watchers.

That lower growth was expected to ripple throughout the economy over the course of the year.

Still, to overcome Manchin's (non-rhetorical) objections to the bill's price tag and the gimmicks they're using to put it under Manchin's $1.5 trillion dollar ceiling, Democrats are going back to the drawing board.

Senators like Oregon's Ron Wyden are working to modify the proposal to better align with Manchin's desires for a more targeted bill.

"It's extremely disappointing to have to drop any major priorities because of Republican obstruction and the constraints of legislating in a fifty-fifty Senate, however, Democrats have made key promises to families who need more support. Failure is not an option here," Wyden wrote in a statement issued from the Senate Finance Committee.

"A package that addresses critical priorities over the long-term, like providing financial security for families, lowering the costs of health care and prescription drugs for seniors, and creating clean energy jobs by combating the climate crisis would go a long way toward addressing our challenges."

Given the continued willingness of Democratic leadership to address Manchin's concerns in good faith, there's still some hope that a deal could get done next year.

One advisor to the Democrats on the climate portion of the legislation told Politico that Manchin could still come back to the table and that the path forward would mean "returning in January to figure out what [Manchin] is on board with... That's the optimistic take."

"This was never the only iron in the fire on climate but it was a huge opportunity," California House Rep. Jared Huffman told Politico . "The difference between climate and all of these other [policy areas] that Manchin’s statement mentioned is more than a political setback, it's existential. And when an issue is existential, you don't just walk away. You fight harder."


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