Senate

Manchin proposes dramatically scaled down version of Build Back Better 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who torpedoed President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda at the end of last year, on Wednesday laid out a dramatically scaled down version that he says he could vote for under the special budget reconciliation process.  

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.  

Whatever Manchin ultimately agrees to would have a different name than the Build Back Better Act, which he said in December he couldn’t support. 

“There’s not a proposal, there’s just a conversation,” he said of informal talks with White House officials.  

“It just makes all the sense in the world. The one thing that we as Democrats all agreed on was the 2017 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 10-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.” 

White House negotiators last year hammered out the outlines of a scaled-down agreement with centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other Democratic senators to lower the cost of prescription drugs, but it didn’t go as far as some liberals, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), initially wanted.  

Asked to clarify whether he wants the prescription drug proposal deal with Sinema and other lawmakers renegotiated, Manchin said he wasn’t intimately familiar with the details of that proposal.  

“I’m just throwing it out,” he said of his idea for prescription drug reform.  

Asked about what he thought of the work already done on the issue with Sinema, Manchin responded: “I haven’t seen it.” 

Manchin also declined to comment on the details of the tax reform he would like to see enacted.

“I’m just saying reconciliation is for getting your financial house in order,” he said, adding that whatever tax reform comes to the floor may be different than what White House officials and senators negotiated last year. 

“I’m talking about a fair tax system,” he said, declining to take a position on the wealth surtax that the White House unveiled as part of its framework in the fall.

But he insisted that he’s not engaged in any formal talks with the White House. 

“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.”  

Tags Bernie Sanders Build Back Better Climate change Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema

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