Democrats scramble to get Build Back Better past the latest blow from Manchin, but it won’t be easy


Manchin claims that the 10-year time frame is necessary since Congress is likely to extend the child tax credit once it’s passed. This is not how he approaches defense spending, let’s say. Just this week he “applauded” the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the military $768 billion for one year. And he’ll do it again next year. But lifting kids out of poverty and giving struggling middle-class families a cushion? That has to be budgeted for 10 years or it’s somehow dishonest. And then universal preschool, elder care, and putting a small down payment on saving the planet from climate catastrophe get the leftover crumbs.

Democrats—as in, the vast majority of them—started with a compromise, seeking a $3.5 trillion bill to set the country back on course, when far more was really needed. After extended negotiation on that in which he demanded a series of cuts and further compromises, Manchin went public with his $1.5 trillion, or at absolute most $1.75 trillion, ceiling for the bill. And then he continued to shift his position constantly, seeming to come to the brink of an agreement only to come out with a new demand. It may have gotten Manchin the attention he’s seeking, but it sure doesn’t make him look honest, or bright, or principled.

Build Back Better won’t be done by the end of the year, which means that the transformative child tax credit expansion is virtually guaranteed to lapse for at least one month, maybe more, causing suffering—including in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. It becomes incredibly urgent to pass the bill as early in 2022 as possible, because with every month that passes it becomes less likely that anything at all will pass.

The longer we wait, the harder it gets,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the conservative-ish New Democratic Coalition, told Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent. DelBene, Definitely Not A Liberal, also told Waldman and Sargent that it was urgent.

”The one thing we hear from folks across all purple districts is they want to see governance work,” she said. “We need to get it done.” What Manchin doesn’t seem to get is that although he demonstrates his power every time he changes his mind, it doesn’t make him look strong. But while he makes himself look indecisive and manipulative, he does accomplish one thing: making Democrats look weak, and hurting the party overall.

Manchin is an unreasonable, dithering egomaniac. But he’s the vote Democrats need, and they need to make it happen as soon as possible in 2022. 

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