Manchin Reneges on Support for Build Back Better Legislation

by December 20, 2021


Mildred Robertson

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has finally said out loud, what we all knew to be the case for months. He does not, and will not support Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) legislation. He announced today that, despite his earlier pledge to work with Biden and the Progressive Caucus to fashion a bill with which they all could live, he cannot see a way to support the legislation.

It is clear that he never intended to support the bill which would have ensured Americans high-quality child care at an affordable cost, preschool programs for 3-4-year-olds; affordable housing, lower-cost healthcare coverage, and would close the Medicare coverage gap while reducing premiums. The bill also would have supported long-term family care needs and cut taxes for workers and their families. Had it become permanent under BBB, the Child Tax Credit increase would have become permanent, providing a tax cut of up to $1,500 for low-wage workers.

After more than five months of negotiations among Democrats, where Machin was his party’s chief obstacle to the passage of the $2 trillion social and environment bill, (down from the original $3.5 trillion at Manchin’s request), he stated today that he cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. “I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.” This bill that he “can’t support”, would have provided billions to help families with children, addressed climate change by curbing carbon emissions, and would lower prescription drug prices.

So what part, exactly, of this bill could Manchin possibly find objectionable? Helping families with children? Addressing climate change? Lowered prescription drug costs? Tax cuts for low-wage workers? Affordable housing? Health-care coverage? What part, exactly?

Manchin’s position is puzzling on several levels. His response to this legislation is particularly peculiar in that the state of West Virginia is among the poorest in the nation. This legislation would have been extremely impactful for that state, as it was designed to help families cope with health and child care costs.  Recent polls indicate that Biden’s BBB spending proposal is immensely popular in deep-red West Virginia, but also just this past week Manchin had personally provided Biden a $1.85 trillion written proposal similar to the bill for which the Democrats had gained consensus in October.

Finally, Manchin has left President Biden out on a limb, as he must face off with the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which compromised on the depth and scope of the BBB, but also supported the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on the President’s word that Manchin would support the social and environment bill when it came up. The infrastructure bill needed the support of progressive Democrats in order to pass. His pledge led the progressives to reluctantly support the infrastructure legislation without passing the BBB simultaneously.

So Manchin’s disingenuous politicking leaves one to wonder, what kinds of levers are being pulled in the background, and who is pulling them. Manchin has direct ties to the fossil-fuel industry, and his daughter is the former CEO of drug-maker Mylan. According to a Mother Jones article published in October of this year, Manchin has received more in political donations from the oil and gas industry than any other senator; more than double the second-largest recipient. He is also the leading beneficiary of donations from the coal mining sector and has accepted more money from gas pipeline operators than any other senator. He ranks sixth among senators receiving national donations from electricity utilities.

If that is not enough to give you pause, it is alleged that his daughter Heather Bresch worked with Pfizer to keep the prices of the company’s EpiPen artificially high. Within five years of her leadership, the price of a two-pack of EpiPens was driven from $100 to above $600. Meanwhile, Manchin’s wife, Gayle, who is co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission and head of the National Association of State Boards of Education, lobbied states to require schools to stock epinephrine. As we examine underlying motivation, you might also note that, while Manchin blocks Democratic progress; he is busy raising funds among wealthy Republican donors, seemingly rewarding him for thwarting Democratic goals. All of these facts lead one to wonder to whom the senator is loyal…to whom he is beholden.

It is unfortunate that the well-being of millions of Americans lies in the hands of a man who is not true to his word, and who would sacrifice ethics to promote family and pad their pockets. I don’t know how Democrats overcome this obstacle in the short run. But in the long run, we can flood the polls in 2022 to dilute Manchin’s voice; a voice that clearly does not speak for the people.

While Manchin is not up for election in 2022, there are many seats that will need to be filled. We must fill them with statesmen and women who care more about the people than they do the position and the power. We need to elect citizen-politicians who believe in service to their electorate, not performance politics. We need to quiet the voice of folk like Joe Manchin who would stand in the way of progress so that this nation can move forward and the people can be heard.

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