Manchin Tries to Bring ‘Build Back Better’ Back From the Great Beyond

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is engaged in talks involving a deficit reduction, clean energy, and climate change package, formerly known as “Build Back Better.” Those talks now surprisingly include a handful of Senate Republicans.

While a potential final product may carry the same name, it would hardly be what President Joe Biden and the Democrat’s progressive wing went to bat for last year. Massive features ranging from sweeping prescription drug price controls to monthly payments to parents are off the table.

Still, the much slimmer version — if actually accomplished — would give the beleaguered president something to tout come November.

Now Manchin, the closest thing to a Senate Republican that still has a capital “D” beside his name, is negotiating with a trio of GOP senators along with Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The roll call for this round of haggling, along with Schumer, includes Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).

Manchin already was in talks with Schumer (D-NY), despite the fact that the pair are not exactly best friends. The pressure of operating in a 50-50 Senate and Manchin’s reluctance to toe the party line has strained their professional relationship.

But now the talks have expanded. For his part, Schumer made statements to some lawmakers leading them to believe about $300 billion in energy tax credits and $800 billion in new revenue is possible.

Those familiar with the situation say both senators’ staffs are working on the outlines of a package. Manchin says the talks are “encouraging, to a certain extent,” though he adds that there may still “be truly nothing.”

The catch for Democrats is that a budget reconciliation bill only requires a minimum 50 votes, not the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. It means that, if Manchin and fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are on board, at least something could pass.

That something, whatever it is, would give Democrats an accomplishment to campaign on come November. Manchin and Sinema indicate willingness to compromise on a minimum corporate tax, a measure Democrats propose to get something out of companies that avoid paying federal taxes.

Nothing ever truly dies in Washington. It is slimmed down or beefed up, repackaged and renamed, and springs back to life like a federal Frankenstein. So even in a vastly overheated economy, there still may be room for Build Back Better.