Lord Manchin’s ego will likely stay on display into 2022, as he keeps holding up Build Back Better

Sen. Joe Manchin is giving himself his absolute favorite Christmas present this year: the continuing attention of the media, the president, and congressional leaders as he delays Build Back Better with his constantly shifting demands. It looks like the legislation will be delayed into 2022–;and with midterm election campaigns expected to heat up quickly in 2022, that could be the kiss of death if Democrats don”;t get right on it in January.

Build Back Better–;often described as “;social policy,”; an irritating shorthand for a bill that includes health care, education, the most effective anti-child poverty measure in decades, climate change, affordable housing, and more–;has already been not just trimmed but slashed in response to Manchin”;s demands. But it”;s like a game of whack-a-mole with one guy: Every time it seems like his most recent excuses for hesitating have been answered, he comes up with a new “;concern.”;

That constant stream of objections from Manchin has yielded him lavish attention from the White House, including personal attention from President Joe Biden, and he has basked in the media spotlight. But as Democratic leaders seem to move toward conceding that Build Back Better will not pass before Congress goes on recess into 2022, you have to wonder if it”;s intended as a cooling-off period with Manchin. Though the White House insists that negotiations between Manchin and Biden have been “;productive and friendly,”; Manchin”;s tone is changing.

Manchin”;s ego has been fully on display for months now, but he”;s growing increasingly thin-skinned and testy, calling a reporter “bullshit” simply for daring to ask where he currently lands on the expanded child tax credit, which, when it went into effect last summer, almost immediately led to a 25% cut in child poverty. According to one estimate, 93% of West Virginia children benefit from the expanded child tax credit, which has already led to a drop in food insecurity for the state”;s households with children from 11.6% to 8.4%. But how dare HuffPost”;s Arthur Delaney ask Lord Manchin where he stands on the issue?

The last check in the 2021 expanded child tax credit went out this week. The children who have not been living in poverty in recent months will soon see their fragile security torn away. The children from struggling middle-class families that have been able to pay for a few little extras in recent months will lose their extracurricular activities or special meals. And Manchin doesn”;t want to talk about it.

With Build Back Better still in intense negotiations over both its size and what it will include, Senate Democrats are shifting their emphasis to voting rights. Spurred by Sen. Raphael Warnock, who publicly tied the Senate”;s failure to pass voting rights legislation to its willingness to change the rules and bypass the filibuster to lift the debt ceiling, a series of Senate Democrats are emphasizing the urgency of voting rights legislation.

“;I would like to see Build Back Better dealt with as quickly as possible, but if we can”;t deal with it right now, it”;s far more important that we deal with the voting rights issue,”; said Sen. Bernie Sanders. And it does seem that they can”;t deal with Build Back Better right now: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer conspicuously did not offer a timetable for it when he said on Wednesday that Democrats “;continue working on getting the Senate into a position where we can vote on the president”;s Build Back Better legislation.”;

The problem, of course, is Senate filibuster rules and the absolute opposition of Republicans to anything that might make it easier to vote. Or help poor children. Or give Democrats a win. Manchin gets to get in the way because as long as Democrats don”;t have the votes to pass something, not one Republican will break ranks. Manchin gets to get in the way because Democrats have limited shots at passing legislation with a simple majority vote. And no Republican will break ranks if the stakes are high. Will Democrats find a way to overcome that blockade? It sure would be nice if they surprised us on that.

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Written by mettablog

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