Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Only a day after it seemed Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was on the verge of backing his party’s spending bill, the senator inched back his support as ever-less-patient Democrats hectored him on the Senate floor before jettisoning another program.
Late Wednesday, NBC News reported Democrats had officially removed all paid family medical leave provisions from “Build Back Better”.
This move came mere hours after The Hill reported a pair of Senate Democrats, Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, tried to pressure Manchin on the Senate floor into supporting the bill with paid leave left in.
At the time, Murray told The Hill that the provision was “not out” and that Manchin “said he will keep an open mind. He is not a no.”
Gillibrand issued a brief statement Wednesday night that reads, “Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan.”
During her briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if the president would support a final bill that lacked paid family medical leave.
“[President Biden] was elected — the reason that he won the Democratic nomination was, in part, because he ran on a commitment of seeking compromise in order to deliver historic change,” Psaki said. “That’s exactly what he’s working to do, and that’s what we’re seeing play out right now.”
“We know … it’s not going to be everything that he wants in this package. There isn’t a final conclusion about what the key components are. We’re going to continue to fight for paid family leave … to be in the package.”
Manchin also modified his stance on the Biden administration’s latest plan for funding the bill, a tax on America’s billionaires.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Manchin, who a day earlier had expressed support for such a plan, had declared a billionaire tax “divisive”.
The Times quoted Manchin as saying, “I don’t like the connotation that we’re targeting different people … It’s time that we all pull together and row together.”
Wednesday’s moves were only the latest in a series of concessions Democrats have made in a desperate attempt to present Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D.-Ariz.) with a bill the two will support.
Faced with passing the spending bill through reconciliation, a process that requires only a simple majority, Democrats need both votes to overcome a 50-senator Republican block.
In recent days, Democrats have abandoned plans to raise the nation’s corporate income tax, offer free community college to all Americans, and announced an end to what would have been a permanent expansion of Medicaid and the Child Tax Credit, all in the hopes of gaining Sinema and Manchin’s support.
As President Joe Biden prepares to travel to Glasgow, Scotland, for a climate summit, the BBC reports that Manchin and Sinema are proving a roadblock for climate legislation, which has also been a major source of consternation for Republicans.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took the Senate floor to offer scathing criticism of Biden’s climate change plans, which McConnell referred to as “socialist wish-fulfillment”.
“When President Biden jets off to next week’s summit,” McConnell said, “his fellow Democrats will be busy plotting yet another reckless taxing and spending spree that would compound the pain with more anti-energy policies.”
Manchin’s maneuvering has already resulted in Democrats dropping some clean energy programs from the spending bill, but the Biden administration has nonetheless continued to speak with optimism about the future of “Build Back Better.”
Psaki told reporters the president would be “laser-focused” on supply chains and energy prices but would continue to push for climate change initiatives abroad.
“(We) see no contradiction between pursuing ambitious and aggressive action to meet this pivotal moment when it comes to the climate crisis and supporting a sustained and swift economic recovery that delivers security and opportunity for the American people,” Psaki said.