On December 19, 2021, following weeks of Capitol Hill negotiations, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he would not support the current version of the so-called Build Back Better Act (BBBA), President Joe Biden’s massive social spending and climate change bill. Because the BBBA has no Republican support, and because the Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the Senator’s announcement torpedoed the President’s chances of passing the BBBA anytime in the near future. By opposing the BBBA, Sen. Manchin has—at least temporarily—saved the country from a reckless, immoral, and far-reaching piece of legislation.
In mid-November, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) published a commentary on the BBBA and another major bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure legislation). NYCF opposed the IIJA due to its provisions concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the budget-busting BBBA is much worse than the IIJA; in addition to being an immensely wasteful boondoggle, it would jeopardize both religious freedom and the sanctity of life.
At the time our previous commentary was written, the IIJA had passed both houses, while the BBBA had not received a vote in either house. Since then, President Biden has signed the IIJA into law, while the House of Representatives voted 220-213 to pass the BBBA on November 19, 2021. No House Republicans supported the BBBA, while one House Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME2)—voted against it. (To find out how your member of Congress voted, please see below.)
Since the House passed the BBBA, the status of the bill in the Senate has been the subject of nonstop media coverage. That coverage has mostly focused on Sen. Manchin, a centrist Democrat with a maverick streak who hails from a red state. (Sen. Manchin is not the only Senate Democrat giving the President headaches about the BBBA, however. As of December 21, Sens. Mark Kelly, D-AZ, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, are reportedly “noncommittal” on the bill.) Sen. Manchin has had ongoing talks with President Biden, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and with many others about the BBBA, and has experienced intense political pressure to support it. The 74-year-old senator has also experienced pressure of a different sort; on November 4, left-wing activists surrounded his car and prevented him from driving out of a Washington, D.C. parking garage. Prior to December 19, Sen. Manchin had consistently stated that he had major concerns about the BBBA. Nevertheless, when asked in early November about Sen. Manchin’s position on the bill, the President said: “‘I believe that Joe will be there.’”
Sen. Manchin’s December 19 statement of opposition to the Build Back Better Act is a model of clear thinking and common sense. In it, the Senator explained that members of his own party “are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.” Sen. Manchin added, “I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight.” The Senator also stated that the American people “deserve transparency on the true cost of the Build Back Better Act,” noting that the Congressional Budget Office found that the BBBA would cost more than $4.5 trillion—more than twice as much as the bill’s supporters claim it would cost.
In a recent interview, Sen. Manchin expressed his strong displeasure with the pressure tactics used against him by other Democrats. According to Politico, the Senator stated that he wants other Democrats “to stop trying to force him into compliance.” “‘I knew what they could and could not do,’” Sen. Manchin said. “‘They just never realized it, because they figure surely [they] can move one person. Surely, [they] can badger and beat one person up. Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from, [where] they can just beat [up on] people and think they’ll be submissive.’” The Senator added, “‘I just got to the wit’s end … It’s not the president, it’s the staff. They drove some things and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable.’”
Not all the news about the BBBA is good. While Sen. Manchin is a “no” vote on the current version of the BBBA, he has expressed willingness to continue to work on social spending legislation provided that Democrats rewrite the legislation and use a regular committee process. Thankfully, this approach could take months, and it is at all not certain that other Democrats would be amenable to it.
It is safe to say that many Democrats are furious with Sen. Manchin—both for opposing the BBBA and for announcing his opposition on Fox News. Both White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA7) publicly attacked the Senator’s integrity. Leader Schumer has said that he plans to hold a vote on the BBBA in the near future “‘so that every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.’” Part of the Democrats’ anger is rooted in the fact that their options are limited. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between the two major parties. Even if they use the budget reconciliation process (which allows bills to pass by a simple majority), Senate Democrats need Sen. Manchin’s support to pass controversial legislation. Also, while Sen. Manchin has consistently stated that he intends to remain a Democrat, continued broadsides from his own party might cause him to change his mind. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell recently said that he had invited Sen. Manchin to “‘come across the aisle and join us,’” adding that if he did so, the Senator “‘would be treated with respect.’” If Sen. Manchin takes Leader McConnell up on this invitation, the Republicans will become the majority party in the Senate, and the Democrats’ hopes of passing the BBBA—or any other major legislation—will be dashed for at least the next year.
Regardless of what happens next, all Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Sen. Joe Manchin for bravely standing up to his own party and preventing the Build Back Better Act from becoming law in 2021. To contact the Senator and express your appreciation—or simply to say that you’re praying for him—please click here.
Build Back Better Act (H.R.5376)
|Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY16)||Yea|
|Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY9)||Yea|
|Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY19)||Yea|
|Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY13)||Yea|
|Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY2)||Nay|
|Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY26)||Yea|
|Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-NY27)||Nay|
|Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY8)||Yea|
|Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY17)||Yea|
|Rep. John Katko (R-NY24)||Nay|
|Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY11)||Nay|
|Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12)||Yea|
|Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY18)||Yea|
|Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY5)||Yea|
|Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY6)||Yea|
|Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY25)||Yea|
|Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY10)||Yea|
|Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14)||Yea|
|Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY23)||Nay|
|Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY4)||Yea|
|Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY21)||Nay|
|Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3)||Yea|
|Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY22)||Nay|
|Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY20)||Yea|
|Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY15)||Yea|
|Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY7)||Yea|
|Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1)||Nay|