Joe Manchin Says Democrats ‘Starting From Scratch’ On Build Back Better

The West Virginia Democrat once again refused to say whether he would support a child tax credit extension.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) expects Democrats to start over on the Build Back Better legislation with a “clean sheet of paper” after he killed the bill last month.

“We will just be starting from scratch,” a cheerful Manchin told reporters Thursday.

Several Democrats told HuffPost they’re ready to make whatever compromises they need in order to get the West Virginia Democrat on board with the legislation, and Manchin seems ready to receive their entreaties.

Not every Democrat, however, seems thrilled with the prospect of another effort to win over Manchin.

“I don’t want to speculate, except to say that I think we’ve been negotiating for five months. That approach has failed miserably,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told HuffPost. “We’ve got to move in a new direction.”

There’s some consensus on what might make it into a new version of the bill. President Joe Biden said Wednesday he believes the original bill’s subsidies for clean energy will survive, as will an expansion of pre-kindergarten access.

Manchin, for his part, suggested Thursday that he would enthusiastically support higher taxes on individuals and corporations, plus giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, which are two key parts of the legislation.

“Get a tax code that works and take care of the pharmaceuticals that are gouging the people with high prices,” Manchin said. “We can fix that. We can do a lot of good things. Get your financial house in order. Get this inflation down. Get COVID out of the way. Then we’ll be rolling.”

But Manchin declined to say whether he would support an extension of the child tax credit or whether he would insist that it be excluded from the bill, saying that stating his position would amount to “negotiating” with reporters.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks to reporters on Jan. 20, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks to reporters on Jan. 20, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

When Democrats failed to pass Build Back Better at the end of the year, they essentially discontinued a monthly benefit that had paid most American families hundreds of dollars each month since July. All last year, Democrats had promised the money would continue indefinitely.

“I was really surprised when the Democrats didn’t get it passed,” Laura Dees, a stay-at-home mom in Amarillo, Texas, told HuffPost. She said she usually votes Republican but had been rooting for Democrats to follow through on their promise to keep the benefits going.

Dees, 45, received $1,000 per month for her four kids, describing the money as a “blessing” that helped pay for food and things for the children. Her husband has a good job, she said, but the extra cash gave her family a financial cushion.

She initially thought it was too good to be true that the federal government was paying a monthly child allowance, but by December, Dees said she and her husband had come to rely on the money.

Without the extra funds, Dees said, her family will still get by, but not as easily as before.

“Prices are going up, and we’re going to have to start cutting down,” she said.

HuffPost readers: Had you come to rely on the monthly child tax credit payments? Tell us about it — email arthur@huffpost.com. Please include your phone number if you’re willing to be interviewed.

Manchin complained last year that the child allowance payments went to parents without jobs and to wealthier parents who don’t need help. He has said he wants lower income limits and a “work requirement” that would exclude the unemployed from receiving the benefit.

Biden said Wednesday that the child tax credit is something “I’m not sure I can get in the package,” but Democrats on Capitol Hill pushed back on that idea.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House committee that oversees tax policy, said he wasn’t ready to “throw in the towel” on the monthly payments, suggesting he’d be open to adding some sort of work requirement.

“The child credit is very popular in the Democratic caucus,” Neal said. “We need to determine what Joe Manchin is in favor of.”

Several Democratic senators also said they’re talking among themselves about what sort of child tax credit compromises they could present to Manchin. But Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) sounded pessimistic about winning his colleague over.

“I don’t know what it will take to get Joe Manchin,” Bennet told HuffPost.

Manchin, for his part, was in a joking mood when HuffPost said some of his colleagues might come around on work requirements.

“Well, you know why? Because we all work,” Manchin said.

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