What Manchin ignores is that many of the provisions in Build Back Better are investments in a better economy and lower health care costs in years and decades to come. Continuing the expanded child tax credit, for instance, reduces child poverty, and child poverty is expensive for a long, long time because kids who experience poverty have worse health and educational and job outcomes. So you can pay now to make sure that kids are fed and live in stable homes and can do extracurricular activities and maybe sometimes get extras, and in the coming decades their health care needs will be less and they’ll get more education and end up paying more taxes, or you can “save” that money now and pay later.
Manchin’s fierce pushback against climate measures is even more fiscally irresponsible. Here, he’s standing up for his own industry, demanding that the government artificially boost coal, at the same time as he’s making nearly $500,000 a year off of coal and has a lot of rich buddies in the business. The cost of Manchin’s defense of a dying industry? Continuing, accelerating climate change if the U.S. doesn’t act to clean up its act, and ever more damage from natural disasters juiced by the climate change that’s already happened—damage the U.S. won’t be ready for if Congress doesn’t invest now in strengthening our infrastructure with an eye specifically on climate.
“The planet is at stake,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said Thursday night. “We got four or five years before there is irreparable harm, and clearly $1.5 trillion would make it absolutely impossible for us to do what has to be done.”
But Manchin, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, is the key to the process, and they’re both determined to milk every last drop of attention out of it along with every possible concession.
The House was scheduled to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday, but after House progressives made clear that they were really not kidding about voting against it until the Build Back Better negotiations were complete, or at least in a much better place, it was delayed. Sort of. The House didn’t adjourn Thursday night, so if they vote on the bill on Friday, it will still technically be Thursday in a legislative sense, with Speaker Pelosi preserving her record of not bringing bills to the floor to lose the vote while also showing the moderate and conservative Democrats in the House that she’s really really trying to get them what they want. What they really want is a quick vote on a bill that was always designed to be paired with the reconciliation bill.
“Leadership made a very clear promise to people that this bill was going to be put on the floor for a vote,” said one of those so-called moderates, Rep. Kathleen Rice. “And if they go back on that, that’s a breach of trust I don’t know if this caucus is going to be able to recover from.” Whereas progressives are supposed to just swallow the decoupling of the two bills after promises were made on that front.
Negotiations continue, with Manchin and Sinema continuing to suck up the attention they crave, in service of minimizing investments in the strength of U.S. families and children and education and elders and the economy and the very future. And, yeah, the debt ceiling looms.