Reports that President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill — the sweeping climate change and social programs measure — is “dead” may be greatly exaggerated, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Two days after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who derailed the bill in December of last year, said that the bill is “dead,” the California Democrat is refusing to give up on the measure.
“I’m never giving up on BBB,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference, noting the important Democratic priorities in the reconciliation bill — the process by which budgetary measures can pass the Senate without 60 votes, meaning in a 50-50 Senate, it wouldn’t need Republican support.
At a press conference last month, Biden said that the most likely path forward on the bill would be to break it up.
“It's clear to me that we're probably going to have to break [the bill] up,” Biden said, adding: “I'm confident we can get pieces — big chunks — of the Build Back Better law signed into law.”
"I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, come back and fight for the rest later," the president added.
“There's so much in there that is really important,” she continued, “In terms of Child Tax Credit, in terms of family, health care for families … not just children, but seniors or siblings with disabilities and the rest with universal pre-K.”
“This about lowering costs for the American people,” Pelosi noted. “Lowering the cost of health care, lowering the cost of child care, lowering the cost of family care, the cost of education at the pre-K level, and we must get something done.”
She also noted the importance of the bill’s provisions to combat climate change. The proposal devotes around $550 billion for climate-related funding, the largest-ever legislative investment to combat the climate crisis.
As originally proposed, the bill offers incentives for electric car purchases, development of technology to capture and store carbon emissions, and construction of wind and solar farms, among other provisions.
Last week, nearly two dozen House Democrats penned a letter to President Biden asking him not to toss out climate and clean energy investments.
Led by Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., the 23 Democrats urged Biden “in the strongest possible terms to move swiftly to finalize the most comprehensive legislation that can pass the Senate and get this historic progress to your desk for your signature in the coming weeks.”
“The need to act on the climate crisis while centering environmental justice and creating and sustaining millions of good-paying union jobs has never been more important,” the group added. “In communities across the country, we are already seeing staggering climate damages.”
House Democrats who signed the letter said the provisions are needed in order to achieve the United States’ goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
Biden has predicted “we would be able to get support for the $500 billion plus for energy and the environment,” and has even touted that as one of the areas of support he has in common with Manchin.
In an interview with NBC News, Manchin indicated a number of other areas he would support, noting that his priority is to “fix the tax code.”
“It's the reason we have reconciliation, and everyone's talking about everything but that,” Manchin told the outlet. “Take care of the debt.”
Manchin told reporters that “we believe that basically, yes, we can do something” on clean energy, has been “supportive” of subsidies for the Affordable Care Act and has been “very receptive on Medicaid expansion to the states that got left behind.”
But one of Manchin’s red lines is that the bill be completely paid for and not impact the national debt or increase inflation. The White House maintains that the bill is paid for, and that statement is largely backed up by estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation.
“What’s important is what’s in the legislation,” Pelosi said Thursday. “Lowers costs, increases pay and is completely paid for.”
“When we talk about inflation, and people say, ‘Oh, you're spending money on this or that,’ this is completely paid for,” she said. “Not only is it paid for, it will, in fact, reduce the national debt, because it is we raise so much more money because we thought we were going to do so much more.”
NBC News reported, citing sources, that Democrats are aiming to add new savings and revenue sources to the bill, which Manchin called “music to my ears.”
“Deficit reduction, inflation, being fiscally responsible — sounds like something we should be talking about!” Manchin told the outlet, adding: “High-income earners — they should be paying their fair share. And there should be a way to do it that’s fair and equitable.”
But Manchin’s goals on adjusting the tax code could run into the interests of fellow moderate holdout Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has opposed tax hikes as a revenue source.
Some Democrats have suggested rebranding the bill (“That old name needs to go in the trash can,” Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz said of the “Build Back Better” name) or even have gone as far as to urge party leaders to “give [Manchin] the pen,” as California Rep. Ro Khanna suggested, and pass whatever he's willing to vote for.
Regardless of the path forward, Pelosi says that the Democrats need to take action on the bill — whatever it ends up containing or being called.
“We cannot abandon it,” Pelosi concluded. “We must, we must proceed.”
Spectrum News' Rachel Tillman contributed to this report.