Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Perhaps no one understands the reality of a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate better than President Joe Biden, who has again been forced to seek the favor of Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has repeatedly forced the shrinkage of his party’s historic social spending bill.
The Hill reported Monday that Biden, who had hoped to wrap the end of his first year in office with a pre-Christmas announcement of the passage of his Build Back Better bill, had reached out to Manchin in effort to get the vote needed to overcome 50 Republicans who have vowed to vote no on any spending bill Democrats present.
As has been the case since the bill’s initial introduction in September, Manchin was not convinced, but the president and senator both characterized the meeting as positive and announced plans to meet again.
Unlike in months past, Manchin’s terms, if they exist, are not yet publicly known. Some within the Democratic Party believe the senator is stalling.
Perhaps there is some validity to this argument. Manchin is a Democrat operating in a state that is dominated by Republicans and home to a powerful coal industry. Neither of these factors lend much flexibility to a senator faced with a bill the Right has called a “liberal wish list” and which is the harbinger for Green New Deal policies that are meant to phase out the nation’s use of coal.
However, as a lifelong Democrat known for his ability to strike deals within his own party and across the aisle, Manchin also faces intense pressure from within his own party, especially from more progressive legislators.
Manchin has long expressed reservations about supporting the bill, primarily on the grounds that a massive spending bill would be detrimental to the U.S. economy, and said Monday he was withholding his final decision until after Democrats presented a final version of Build Back Better.
“Listen, let’s at least see the bill,” Manchin told Politico. “Need to see what they write, what’s the final print. That tells you everything.”
From President Biden’s perspective, time is of the essence as the Child Tax Credit, a measure that gives parents advanced payments on what would normally be administered during tax season, is set to expire.
“(The) President wants to see the Child Tax Credit extended,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing. “That’s why he proposed it in this package. And clearly, that’s why a number of members of the Senate want to get this done as soon as possible. The President supports that.”
One element that has not changed is liberal senators’ reluctance to criticize Manchin publicly.
The last senator to take such a step was Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, a registered independent who caucuses with the Democrats. When Sanders critiqued Manchin in an op-ep in a West Virginia newspaper, Manchin dug in. Little more than two weeks later, Democrats scrambled to offer concessions in a failed attempt to appease him.
Even when President Biden slashed the bill by more than two-thirds, down to $1.75 trillion, Manchin still said he worried over the true cost.
Still, CNBC, citing a collection of economists, reported last week that experts predict some version of Build Back Better is destined to pass.