During President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday night, he once more tried to sell his Build Back Better agenda item, this time under the guise of a new phrase, "Building a Better America." The next day, after previously doubling down on his opposition to Build Back Better, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) suggested his own version including some scaled down proposals under the old bill's name, though this bill to pass under the reconciliation process will be called something new. He's also emphasized "there’s not a proposal, there’s just a conversation" with the White House, according to a report from Alexander Bolton for The Hill.
According to Bolton:
Manchin said he could support a reconciliation package that reforms the tax code and lowers the cost of prescription drugs if the money raised is split between spending on new climate change proposals and deficit reduction and fighting inflation.
The West Virginia senator clarified he hasn’t made any formal counterproposal to the White House but is sketching the outlines of a proposal that he could support along with the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus.
“It just makes all the sense in the world. The one thing that we as Democrats all agreed on was the 2017 [Trump-era] tax cuts were weighted unfairly. So if you want to fix the tax cuts and make everyone pay their fair share, whether it’s the very wealthiest or the corporations that pay nothing — I think the president identified that last night — then you have to fix the tax code,” he said.
“Then you find out what revenues you have from that if you fix it,” he added.
Manchin also said there is broad agreement among Democrats on passing legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and suggested that modeling a program on what the Department of Veterans Affairs does to negotiate lower prices for military veterans would be a good idea.
“The other thing that we should all agree on is the high pharmaceutical prices, so you allow the negotiations. And I just said the organization that does the best job is the VA, the Veterans administration gets some of the lowest prices. Maybe we should look at them and let them basically do [that] for our Medicaid and Medicare [recipients,]” he said.
Manchin says half of the revenue raised from tax reform and prescription drug reform should be used to lower the deficit and fight inflation and the other half should be spent on whatever 10-year program has the most support in the Democratic caucus.
He suggested spending on an array of initiatives to fight climate change would likely unify his Democratic colleagues.
“Half of that money should be dedicated to fighting inflation and reducing the deficit,” he said. “The other half you can pick for a ten-year program, whatever you think is the highest priority and right now it seems to be the environment— and that’s a pretty costly one — would take care of it.”
"Everybody knows pretty much where I am,” he said. “This is nothing new. What I just told you all …. is nothing new. I’ve been saying it for a year," Manchin also said.
Bolton had also reported that after Biden's address on Tuesday night, Manchin reiterated "nothing's changed" and "that was a little bit far" when reacting to the speech and his reiterating the laundry list of Build Back Better agenda items.
A particular concern for Manchin with Build Back Better had been the cost associated with it and concerns of inflation. He was reportedly "stunned" by a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last December that revealed making the Build Back Better proposals permanent would "increase the deficit by $3 trillion over 2022 to 2031." The White House responded by calling such a score "fake."
This week has already been a busy one for Sen. Manchin. On Monday, he was the only Democrat to vote against moving forward on debating the Women's Health Protection Act, an extreme bill that would not only codify Roe v. Wade, but would also do away with virtually all pro-life laws passed at the state level and allow for abortions up until birth in all 50 states. During the State of the Union address, he also sat on the Republican side of the chamber, with Sens. Mitt Romney (UT) and Roger Wicker (MS).
Even after Manchin has repeatedly signaled his opposition to the bill, the White House, including Biden himself, have continuously tried to sell it, from social media accounts to campaigning for vulnerable Democrats in public speeches.