All of the twists and turns in the saga of the Build Back Better Act have just been prologue. Now, it’s time for Democratic senators to determine what will really make it in the final product and whether President Joe Biden’s signature bill will pass at all.
Much of that comes down to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who expressed skepticism about Build Back Better Wednesday. The bill, he said, would make major changes to three main areas: the tax system, social services, and the energy sector. “We should all be very careful what we do,” Manchin said. “We get any of those wrong, and we’re in trouble.”
Back in August, I wrote that the proposed bill would be “a big fucking deal” if it passed. Various changes and compromises have been made to it since then, weakening or eliminating some — but certainly not all — of its most significant provisions. What remains in the House-passed bill does break down mainly into the three areas Manchin described.
- Social spending: A compromised effort to expand the social welfare state and help families with children, with several new programs created but set to expire in a few years (this includes child care funding, pre-K expansion, and a continuation of the expanded child tax credit) as well as various funding for health care programs (like home-based care through Medicaid and hearing for seniors through Medicare)
- Climate: A lot of money aimed at fighting climate change, primarily through tax credits for clean energy, but not including many punitive policies toward dirty energy
- Taxes: New tax changes that are projected to raise much more money from the very wealthy and corporations but also a large tax cut for well-off people in high-tax (mostly blue) states
Then there’s various other spending on a plethora of different issues and projects, including more money for existing affordable housing programs, and measures to give unauthorized immigrants temporary work permits and increase legal immigration.
But major changes will lie ahead as the Senate hammers out its own version. Manchin’s vote is essential, and he’s said he’s worried the bill creates too many temporary social programs and may seek additional changes to the climate provisions too. That tax change benefiting wealthy blue state residents may be scaled back by senators. And the chamber’s parliamentarian has to determine whether major provisions on immigration and other issues comply with the chamber’s rules. So none of this is set in stone just yet.