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Build Back Better is dying, here’s what that means for Americans

December 21, 2021, 8:20 PM UTC

The Biden administration’s keystone $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package, Build Back Better, is dead.

The plan exhaled its final death rattle this weekend as Senator Joe Manchin, a democrat from West Virginia, took to Fox News Sunday to announce that he had given up on negotiations. 

“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” Manchin told Fox News Sunday host Bret Baier. “This is a no on this legislation.” The senator cited growing inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons he could not support a large spending plan. Manchin has repeatedly claimed that the plan would increase inflation, despite a letter from 17 Nobel Prize-winning economists saying that it would not.

Democrats, with a 50-50 split in the Senate against Republicans and the vice president as the tiebreaker, needed Manchin’s vote to pass the groundbreaking act. They spent months negotiating the package to meet his demands, but were ultimately unsuccessful. 

Build Back Better would have included the country’s largest investment ever in the fight against climate change, a move that could ultimately harm the coal industry. Coal power plants produce a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, and Manchin has a history of resisting climate provisions in bills.  Manchin has made millions of dollars from coal and has long-standing ties to the industry. He has holdings between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems, the coal brokerage firm he founded, according to his most recent filings.

The White House and Congressional Democrats have said they still believe they’ll be able to salvage at least some parts of the bill in January, but they’ve been light on details about how they plan to get it done without the support of Manchin. ”[President Joe Biden is] no stranger to legislative challenges, and we are going to continue to take steps—work like hell to get it done,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing on Monday. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said he wouldn’t give up. The New York Democrat sent a letter to members Monday morning saying he still plans to put the bill to a floor vote, “so that every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.” But those tactics appeared to be aimed at shaming Manchin instead of passing the bill. 

In a local radio interview, Manchin accused the White House of “badgering” him and rallying protestors against him. “I’m from West Virginia, I’m not from where they’re from and they can’t just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period,” he said. 

If Democrats rewrote the entire bill, said Manchin, he would then consider voting for it. Here are some of the provisions included in Build Back Better that will now be lost: 

Family Care 

Build Back Better was chock full of provisions that would ease the financial burdens of families. 

Included was an extension of an expanded child tax credit that Democrats pushed through in March, which benefits an estimated 61 million children. Now, the maximum credit will drop from $3,600 to $2,000, and the benefit will become annual instead of monthly. A work requirement for parents will also be reinstated. 

The plan also included $380 billion to institute universal Pre-K for children in America, $10 billion in child nutrition assistance which would extend free school meals to 9 million more students, and $200 billion for four weeks of paid family leave for U.S. workers. America is the only industrialized nation with no paid family leave program.

A Green-ish New Deal

Biden’s plan included the largest investment ever to tackle climate change and climate-associated problems. Gone will be the $555 billion allocated to reduce carbon emissions around the country by expanding tax credits for green energy programs

Plans to increase fees on oil and gas leases on federal lands for the first time in 100 years will also end, as will a plan to charge oil and gas companies for methane pollution and $775 million to help the industry lower their methane emissions. 

Around $28 billion was included in the bill to create conservation programs around the country, and $27 billion was included to maintain forests and to work to prevent forest fires

Access to healthcare 

States that opted out of expanding their Medicaid programs would have received aid for some under-covered, low-income families at no charge. 

Medicare would have also been expanded to include hearing benefits. In 2019 nearly 1 in 3 people over 65 reported difficulty hearing. Seniors on Medicare currently don’t receive hearing care and as a result, said the Biden administration, only 30% of Americans over age 70 who need them use them. The plan would have also reduced some prescription drug prices by ​​granting Medicare the power to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies and levy a tax on companies that overcharged. 

Transportation

The plan emphasized clean transit across the country, with $57 billion going towards public transportation and highways. $10 billion of that would have been allocated to high speed rail.

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