How Democrats Lost Build Back Better

The Build Back Better Act, President Joe Biden’s signature social safety net act, is now dead – at least in its current form. After months of grueling negotiations in which the original proposal had slowly shrunk from $ 6 trillion over 10 years to $ 1.7 trillion, Senator Joe Manchin went on Fox News last weekend to deal the final blow.

“I cannot vote to proceed with this legal text. I just can not. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I’m not going there, ”said the West Virginia senator Fox News Sunday.

Manchin’s rejection of the Democratic Party’s Climate and Poverty Reduction Act comes at a bad time. Most Democrats and political watchers saw this as the last and best chance to tackle the climate crisis in a decade or even a generation. If Build Back Better is really dead, it would make it impossible for the United States, the largest carbon polluter in history, to meet its emissions reduction goals. And the inability – or unwillingness – to improve the material conditions of working people will almost certainly bring down the Democrats at halftime, who tend to swing in favor of the minority party.

The White House immediately accused Manchin of taking back his word on Biden. specification that his remarks on Sunday constitute “a sudden and inexplicable reversal of his position” and a “violation of his obligations” to the President and his colleagues in the House and Senate. Progressives are just as angry. Left-wing lawmakers like New York MPs Jamaal Bowman and Missouri Cori Bush impaled Manchin because they were committed to corporate interests. “Joe Manchin is the new Mitch McConnell,” Bowman said. “Manchin doesn’t bring us any closer to bipartisanism. He’s doing the Republican Party’s work. ”Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has promised to put the bill to a vote“ very early ”in 2022, despite Manchin’s objections.

But most Democrats, including progressives, are unwilling to ponder the strategic mistakes they made in the process. During a call to reporters Monday, MP Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she had no regrets about the progressives’ decision to decouple Build Back Better from the bipartisan infrastructure law, to give up its primary leverage and to rely solely on Manchin’s word .

“It’s a question that has crossed my mind a million times,” said Jayapal. “And I can tell you I don’t. Because I really believe, and these are all tactical judgments you have to make right now, but what I believe now when I see what Senator Manchin did yesterday is that I don’t think the Senator Build Back Better actually wanted to say goodbye. ”

“If we hadn’t passed the Infrastructure Act, I think that would have been the day the Senator said the Build Back Better Act was complete,” she continued. But the Build Back Better Act is still dead, the time that could have been spent fighting the pandemic and other crises has been wasted, and the progressives of Congress – after taking power for the first time in the history of the CCP had exercised – gave in anyway.

Jayapal said it was “widely understood” that Manchin was untrustworthy, but stressed that she had “said nothing against him in all these months” because she believed he was negotiating “in good faith”. When asked about the CPC strategy and whether this experience could change the approach of the progressives in the future, Jayapal replied, “I have a feeling that our strategy worked really well.”

Jayapal blocked the Infrastructure Act, cornering Manchin and forcing him to agree to the Build Back Better framework. “I think our strategy was exactly the right strategy.” But only the six members of the House of Representatives that make up the Squad held the line and voted against the Infrastructure Act to tie the two laws together. The rest of the Progressive Caucus gave way under pressure from conservative Democrats and party leaders. Now they are calling on the President to pass aspects of Build Back Better through executive action. But counting on the same man who refused to take action by the executive branch to abolish student loans, lift deadly sanctions, and fulfill his other campaign promises to get through this seems like a strategy that is as effective as negotiating with the senator from West Virginia.


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