Millionaire Manchin’s coal money behind his knifing of Build Back Better
Coal baron: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., killed the Build Back Better. Barón del carbón: el senador Joe Manchin, demócrata de Virginia, mató a Build Back Better. | Andrew Harnik / AP

WASHINGTON—Joe Manchin has spewed reason after reason for killing President Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan on Fox News and elsewhere over the weekend, leaving out the real reason: Based on campaign contributions and on his personal millions of dollars in wealth, he is a creature of the dirty fossil fuel industry in the United States.

He has given, in the last two days, a host of other reasons behind his knifing of the bill.

Manchin says Democrats have refused to attach “work requirements” to social benefits in the bill. That explanation is particularly outrageous considering that the child tax credits in the current rescue package—which would be extended by the BBB bill—have allowed millions of women and men to return to work.

Melissa Parks, a resident in Chicago’s Wentworth Houses, has three children for each of whom she has been receiving $250, for a total of $750 each month since August. The money has allowed her to take care of her children and work full time since then for a local publishing company. The funds, under Biden’s recovery plan, would continue only if the BBB plan, now killed by Manchin, had passed. “I was able to buy clothing for the children to go back to school, she said, and to pay my rent and buy food. And then go to work full time.

“Now I simply will have not enough to pay rent and buy food. If I feed the children I have to go without. At best it will be packages of ramen noodles in my household.

Parks said she hasn’t fully figured out what to do but that she will try food banks at local churches.

Mancin cares nothing about people like Parks. What really bothers him about the bill is that it impacts his campaign contributors and his own personal wealth, is the section of the bill devoted to battling climate change. What Manchin really wants to kill the most is the bill’s provision to spend $555 billion to switch the country over to wind and solar power and away from fossil fuels, including and especially dirty coal.

His move confirms the fears of progressive congressional lawmakers that they would lose leverage if they approved the infrastructure bill before BBB. They were angry, but not surprised about Manchin’s announcement this past weekend. They point out that Manchin is the man who ran against President Obama’s climate change legislation in 2010 and got elected to the Senate on that platform.

Manchin pulled the typical Republican negotiating trick with the BBB plan. He forced the removal of parts of the bill that would impose penalties on electric utilities that continue to burn coal but, despite those concessions to him, killed the bill anyway.

Manchin has received more campaign money from oil, coal, and gas companies than any other member of the U.S. Senate. Democrats hoped that by substantially weakening penalties against those companies when they violate clean energy standards they could win Manchin’s support. He essentially told them where to go, however, as he announced his opposition to the bill despite those concessions.

Manchin’s talk that he was against penalties for fossil fuel companies but for incentives for clean energy turned out to be just another piece of what, from the beginning, has been bad faith negotiating on his part.

Other “moderate” Democrats who also opposed the bill but backed it in the House, figuring it would fail in the Senate anyway, are, of course, glad that Manchin is taking the beating that they too deserve. Nevertheless, the Biden administration and progressive lawmakers, under pressure from the mass movements in the country, are struggling to perhaps save certain pieces of the bill in smaller form.

Manchin reportedly met with Biden after the initial anger expressed by the White House, and some lawmakers are holding out hope that the $2 trillion bill could be further changed to meet Manchin’s demands.

So-called Democratic moderates are putting forward approaches that they actually preferred from the beginning, approaches far less sweeping than the BBB bill passed by the House and supported by the president. If a few of these elements end up becoming law, these moderates will no doubt try to claim credit for the popular ones when they face voters next year.

“At the start of these negotiations many months ago, we called for prioritizing doing a few things well for longer, and we believe that adopting such an approach could open a potential path forward for this legislation,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., the chair of the “moderate” New Democrat Coalition, said in a statement. “Failure is not an option.”

Despite having condemned Manchin for killing the bill, it is clear the White House would be happy to settle for compromises.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted DelBene’s statement with praise. Facing unanimous Republican opposition, Democrats need all 50 of their caucus members in the evenly split Senate to support the legislation, or it is certain to fail.

“Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Despite all the speculation about compromises, it is clear that the bill is dead, at least for now.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chamber will vote “very early in the new year” on a changed bill, indicating that he has not totally given up on some type of “compromise.”

“We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act—and we will keep voting on it until we get something done,” he said.

Democrats see passage of something as critical to their chances in the 2022 midterms.

Millions have just received their last checks of up to $300 per child in tax credits. Unless BBB is passed, there will be no January child aid checks, causing catastrophic results for families that have survived because of those credits. The child tax credit checks have lifted millions of children out of poverty and have allowed mothers and fathers to return to work.

Manchin has been vocal about his reservations about a large social safety net bill throughout the negotiations, prompting House progressives to insist on paring it with the bipartisan infrastructure law. The two bills were unlinked last month after Biden and party leaders pushed to pass the transportation measure.

As the initial anger at Manchin wore off, numerous Democrats sought to take the optimistic view, grabbing on to his hint that he could be open to a restructured package even as he continues lying by saying his chief concerns are, not his personal wealth, but inflation and adding to the national debt.

Progressive anger erupts after Manchin kills Build Back Better


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.