Build Back Better has returned as Democrats look to arm themselves ahead of the midterm elections. But don’t call it a comeback.
Democrats gunning to salvage President Joe Biden’s social-spending proposal continue to face the challenge of bringing aboard every colleague in the evenly divided Senate, now on a newly abridged time frame.
The West Wing used the fraught three-word moniker while meeting with Democrats this week, calling the proposal a “big priority” for the president to be completed before the August recess, Politico reported.
That timeline may prove wishful, even for a multitrillion-dollar plan that refuses to die.
Democrats’ window of opportunity is closing as the November midterm elections approach, said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former aide to the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“If anyone thinks this can be done right before the August recess, they are not playing with a full deck,” Manley told the Washington Examiner.
“I don’t know how you can look at the last couple of months and think that Congress is going to process a major piece of legislation designed to boost Democrats months before the election,” Manley said. “Hopefully, I’m wrong. But I just don’t see it.”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was quick to temper expectations. He reiterated his concern that any bill should score bipartisan approval.
Legislation tackling “major social changes” must move through the regular Senate process and “build consensus,” Manchin said.
And the West Virginia lawmaker tamped down the swell of Build Back Better talk. “There’s not a Build Back Better revival,” Manchin said. “There’s not.”
Democrats’ sweeping social spending legislation has narrowed considerably since last summer, cleaved in half to $2 trillion after the bipartisan infrastructure law captured some proposals. And it could shrink even further if talks resume.
Senior administration officials told the Washington Post that there is “real fear” inside the White House that Democrats will fail to strike a deal in time with Manchin.
His dance with the White House over the package came to a head in December last year before collapsing as the negotiations spilled into public view.
Manchin’s reluctance to bend toward his party has appeared to bolster his political standing at home. The senator, who recently told donors that he intends to run for reelection, has seen his popularity surge in the past year.
In surveys conducted between Jan. 1 and March 31 by Morning Consult, 57% of West Virginia voters approved of Manchin’s job performance, up from 40% one year earlier — an increase bigger than any other senator.
Manley said he thought Manchin’s growing popularity could hamper prospects for a deal.
“He doesn’t feel the need to bow to the desires of the president of his own party or the members of his caucus,” Manley said.
While the senator has said in recent weeks that he supports a push to lower prescription drug prices, spending on energy and climate measures, and a tax hike to cut the federal deficit, he insisted Tuesday that any final proposal remained far off.
“There’s nothing formal,” he told reporters. “I want to make sure y’all understand: There’s no false hopes here.”