Not by Manchin Alone: How Senate GOP Can Use Biden's Build Back Better Bill Against Dems

© REUTERS / ERIN SCOTTU.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks from the White House after his coronavirus pandemic relief legislation passed in the Senate, in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks from the White House after his coronavirus pandemic relief legislation passed in the Senate, in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.11.2021
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The passage of Joe Biden's landmark $1.75 trillion spending and climate bill in the US Senate faces several hurdles and is fraught with certain risks for the Dems, warns the Associated Press, explaining how Senate Republicans could derail the president's "Build Back Better" plan.
The original package proposed by the president amounted to $3.5 trillion. As the GOP made it clear that it is unlikely to support Biden's social spending initiative citing money waste and tax hike concerns, the Democrats wrapped it up as a "reconciliation bill". The reconciliation process allows Dems to bypass the GOP's filibuster and adopt a bill by a simple majority of votes in the evenly split Senate.
However, dissenting moderate Democrats threw some sand in Biden's gears forcing him to whittle down the "Build Back Better" bill to $1.75 trillion. It passed 220 to 213 in the House on 19 November almost wholly along party lines, with one Democratic lawmaker, Jared Golden of Maine, opposing it.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., arrives at the chamber for a procedural vote to advance the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.11.2021
Democratic Senator May Ditch Biden's Build Back Better Bill Amid Soaring Inflation, Report Says

How GOP Could Derail Biden's Bill

The fate of the "Build Back Better" bill largely depends on Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is likely to introduce further cuts to the already revamped proposal. Given the GOP's opposition to Biden's "spending spree", Senator Joe Manchin's vote is crucial for the Dems. This arguably makes him "the most powerful Joe in Washington", as Business Insider noted in April 2021. Axios has not ruled out Manchin possibly ditching the bill altogether this year and postponing it until 2022 over inflation fears.
Yet, it's not only Manchin who could torpedo Biden's bold "Build Back Better" plan, but also the Senate GOP, according to Alan Fram of the Associated Press.
For instance, after debating the legislation for up to 20 hours Republican lawmakers can trigger a so-called "vote-a-rama". This practice envisages members of Congress proposing an unlimited number of amendments to budget-related measures. These amendments are all voted on one after the other after the time given for debate expires.

"GOP goals will be twofold", presumes Fram. "They can force changes weakening the bill by winning over just one Democrat. And they can offer amendments that lose but gain ammunition for next year's midterm elections by putting Democrats on record against popular-sounding ideas".

FILE- In this Nov. 15, 2017, file photo, a worker aerates printed sheets of dollar bills at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.11.2021
Why Inflation May Be the Last Straw for Biden's Progressive Build Back Better Plans
According to him, Biden's 2,100-page bill offers plenty of targets. In particular, the "Build Back Better" initiative includes climate change proposals, healthcare provisions, federal paid family leave, a corporate minimum tax, and other initiatives traditionally challenged by the GOP.
Thus, GOP Senators could accuse Democrats of driving up gasoline and home-heating prices by proposing "an amendment blocking new fees on petroleum and natural gas facilities with excessive emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas contributor", the journalist suggests.
In addition, the Republicans could design amendments in a way that Democrats would be seen as offering federal benefits to immigrants in the US without legal authorisation, according to Fram. Or the GOP could come up with a plan of giving parents more authority on school curricula, he notes, adding this very issue helped elect Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia gubernatorial race.
That is not all, however. The journalist does not rule out the GOP nixing the bill's provision permitting millions of migrants living in the US without permanent legal status since before 2011 to live and work in the US for up to 10 years. He explains that under congressional rules a reconciliation bill must be driven chiefly by budgetary considerations, such as spending, revenues, the deficit, or the debt limit. In contrast, the immigration provision could be seen as a purely political change and therefore be excluded from the legislation.

"Opponents can ask the chamber's nonpartisan parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, to decide if a section violates that requirement, and if it does it nearly always falls from the bill", Fram writes, adding that previously MacDonough ruled that Democratic immigration proposals violated Senate rules.

A student activist holds up a sign as he participates in the MoveOn and Poor People's Campaign Build Back Better campaign on November 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.11.2021
Obama-Era Official Reveals How Build Back Better Plan May Compound US Budget Deficit, National Debt

Is it Time for Biden to Turn His Back on Progressive Agenda?

Besides various traps that the GOP could set to make Democrats look bad ahead of the 2022 midterm vote, Biden's bill will almost certainly undergo cuts, according to Fram. He expects Joe Manchin will remove four weeks of annual paid leave for family and medical reasons from the bill.
It is also probable that the Democratic senator, whose state is a top coal producer, will target the remaining provisions aimed at facilitating a switch to green energy. Manchin earlier forced the president to drop a provision that fined energy producers who don't wean themselves off carbon-heavy fuels.
The Senate's forthcoming debate offers a huge challenge for Joe Biden's progressive spending plans, according to observers. And new defeats are unlikely to help the president fix his plummeting poll numbers. Thus, former Bill and Hillary Clinton aides and allies have called upon Joe Biden to go "more moderate".

"If Democrats remain on their current course and keep coddling and catering to progressives, they could lose as many as 50 seats and control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections", warn Mark Penn and Andrew Stein in their New York Times op-ed. "[Biden] got off to a good start, especially meeting the early challenge of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. But polling on key issues show that voters have been turning against the Biden administration, and rejecting its embrace of parts of the Bernie Sanders/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez playbook".

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