Democrats Are Rebuilding The Build Back Better Act

They’re looking for a version of the legislation that could win support from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are quietly trying to revive the Build Back Better Act with a new version of the bill that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) might like better than the old one.

Democrats turned to voting rights this month after Manchin said in December he couldn’t support Build Back Better.

The bill he disliked had billions for green energy; subsidies for child care, home care and health care; expanded access to prekindergarten and a continuation of monthly child tax credit payments.

A source familiar with Senate Democrats’ legislative efforts said they were considering a more Manchin-friendly measure that would likely drop child care and tighten rules for the child tax credit, such as by requiring parents to have employment-related tax forms in order to qualify. NBC News first reported the possible changes.

“There are ongoing discussions,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told HuffPost on Wednesday. “I don’t know where all the details lie right now. It is a priority of mine to extend the child tax credit, and we’re going to look for every way to do it.”

President Joe Biden sounded a confident note Wednesday at a press conference that Democrats could pass something related to the Build Back Better agenda before the midterm elections.

“I’m confident we can get pieces — big chunks — of Build Back Better signed into law,” Biden said.

Specifically, Biden said he believes there is enough support to pass the more than $500 billion in proposed climate and energy proposals. Biden also cited Manchin’s support for early childhood education as an opening for further negotiations.

“It’s clear to me we’re going to have to break it up,” Biden said, repeatedly saying that he didn’t anticipate such fervent opposition from Republicans on all aspects of his agenda. “I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now and get back and fight for the rest later.”

Biden admitted he is “not sure” the expanded child tax credit and free community college — two big features of the original Build Back Better proposal Biden campaigned on — would make it in any broken up proposal.

Meanwhile, Manchin said Wednesday evening that no one had yet approached him about a renegotiated, slimmed down, proposal or Biden’s suggestion that the agenda would be broken down into “chunks.”

Many Senate Democrats, however, seem on board.

“We need to get as much as we can across the finish line,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. “That’s hard because we have the skinniest possible majority and that means it takes every vote so that means we have to do whatever it takes to get every vote.”

Since Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have both refused to support the Senate rules changes Democrats would need to make in order to pass voting rights bills, Democrats will likely return to their unfinished economic policy business after this week.

The failure to pass Build Back Better last year meant 36 million households did not receive a child tax credit payment last week for the first time in six months, even though Democrats vowed the money would continue indefinitely and said it would define their legacy. The cash put a major dent in child poverty.

Most families in the U.S. received the payments, which amounted to $300 for kids under age 6 and $250 for kids under 18, so long as their parents earned less than $150,000. The median household income in the U.S. is about $67,000.

Manchin has complained about households receiving the payments even if the parents aren’t working at all and even if they make six-figure incomes and don’t need the extra help. He told his colleagues that some parents waste the money on drugs.

Democrats increasingly realize they need to accommodate Manchin with tighter eligibility rules, the source said, or else the monthly payments won’t come back.

Democrats resisted adding a “work requirement” last year. One possible solution, short of requiring a certain income level for eligibility, would be to require at least some parents have a W-2 tax form, the document that employers use to report employee wages. The Niskanen Center think tank highlighted W-2s as a possible compromise last week. Senate Finance chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose committee oversees tax policy, told HuffPost that he would consider it.

Manchin has said recently that he himself is not involved in any Build Back Better negotiations. His office did not respond to a request for comment about the W-2 idea.

“I don’t think it’s rocket science,” Rep Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) said. “We’ve got to find something [Manchin] will support and move forward.”

Igor Bobic contributed reporting.

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