In negotiations over Build Back Better 2.0, Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) is still running the show.
On Thursday, Manchin told Senate Democratic leaders that he would not support a series of tax increases or new initiatives aimed at curbing climate change, including subsidies for electric vehicles, tax credits for clean energy production, and penalties on businesses that spew methane into the atmosphere. The tax hikes, which would have been aimed at wealthier Americans, and the green spending were two of the more significant aspects of President Joe Biden's recently resuscitated "Build Back Better" agenda, but neither seems likely to pass without Manchin's support, The Washington Post reported.
In a statement to The New York Times, a spokeswoman for Manchin's office implied that the senator was worried about how more federal spending would further stoke inflation. Following the release of June's consumer price index data earlier this week, Manchin released a statement warning that "no matter what spending aspirations some in Congress may have, it is clear to anyone who visits a grocery store or a gas station that we cannot add any more fuel to this inflation fire."
As you may recall, Manchin's opposition to the Build Back Better plan scuttled it in the Senate last year. At that time, Manchin opposed pushing more spending through Congress with inflation ramping up and the federal budget deficit getting more bloated. With Democrats holding the slimmest of majorities in Congress' upper chamber (it's evenly split 50–50, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote) any big-ticket legislation hinges on the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D–Ariz.), who has also been skeptical of Build Back Better in the past.
In recent weeks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the White House have been quietly negotiating with Manchin over a revamped package that would direct some new tax revenue to reduce the deficit. There's been no price tag attached to the seemingly-always-in-flux new package, but the Post notes that it would be significantly smaller than the $2 billion (but actually much more) in spending that the White House originally sought.
Other parts of the Build Back Better 2.0 plan do have Manchin's support, according to Politico, including a measure aimed at reducing drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries and a two-year extension of Affordable Care Act subsidies to ease the expected pain of rising insurance premiums this year. (One potential hitch: The extension of the insurance subsidies is likely to add inflationary pressure to the economy at a time when prices are already rising faster than they have in four decades, as Reason's Peter Suderman has detailed.)
The apparent shift in Manchin's thinking is probably not the final word on Build Back Better 2.0—Democrats will likely continue trying to pass some version of this package until the midterm elections in November, and perhaps even afterward—but it is yet another reminder of the power that the senator from West Virginia holds at the moment.
Here's another important reminder: Manchin's decision to block Build Back Better last year now looks absolutely correct, even though he was one of the few Democrats taking the threat of inflation seriously at the time.
By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not "transitory" and is instead getting worse. From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) November 10, 2021
Manchin has also demonstrated a willingness to change his political calculus as the country's economic situation has shifted. Schumer and Biden, meanwhile, were pushing for higher taxes and new spending when they claimed inflation would be transitory—and are still pushing for higher taxes and new spending now that it's obviously not.
If we can't agree on what risks our government needs to address, might we end up compromising by agreeing to over-regulate everything, wonders Bonnie Kristian:
From mass panics over mass shootings to politically stoked fears of kidnappings, sex trafficking, and grooming, Kristian worries about ill-considered legislative responses which can do more harm than good:
That's bad in its own right, stifling ordinary life to prevent something already very unlikely to occur. But it's even more difficult to live with if it's based on a risk assessment you don't share, and living in a society as historically wealthy and complex as ours creates endless possibilities for risk assessments to differ.
The pace of change in modern life brings new risks to consider, which is more difficult than simply inheriting familiar wisdom, and our fragmented media consumption means those decisions are informed by different—even competing—informational feeds. This is how we end up with large blocs of the public demanding government protection from something that other large blocs, frequently with the data to prove it, don't see as a significant threat at all.
Denver will no longer require applicants for business licenses to prove their legal immigration status.
A new state law that took effect on July 1 says municipalities in Colorado no longer have to comply with a 2006 state mandate that required proof of legal immigration status before receiving any public benefit, including a city business license, Colorado Politics explains. A spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses told the website that he expects the change will "at least lead to a small increase in volume" of applications for food truck and restaurant permits.
No one should have to risk being deported because they want to start a legal business or hire employees. Kudos to Colorado lawmakers for undoing a poorly conceived law.
• Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita claimed that the Indianapolis doctor who helped a 10-year-old Ohio girl obtain an abortion could be in legal jeopardy for failing to fill out the proper paperwork about the procedure. But it turns out that the doctor did comply with the state's reporting law.
• Ivana Trump, the businesswoman who became former President Donald Trump's first ex-wife and the mother to his three eldest children, died Thursday in Manhattan at age 73.
• The Senate could vote next week to throw $52 billion in subsidies at computer chip manufacturers—even though they don't need the money and it won't solve current supply chain issues.
• Trump is reportedly considering launching his 2024 presidential campaign before this year's midterm elections, even though Republicans have been begging him to wait.
• Are we really doing this again?
LA County is planning to instate an indoor masking mandate on July 29. It would apply to all public indoor spaces: pic.twitter.com/8QHgVZropO
— Soumya (@skarlamangla) July 14, 2022
• Congress is one step closer to finally ending the Iraq War (and the Gulf War, too)!
NEW: The House just voted to repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization as part of the defense bill.
It was included in a package of bipartisan amendments, along with repealing the 1991 Gulf War AUMF and a 1957 Middle East resolution.
— Connor O'Brien (@connorobrienNH) July 14, 2022
• A bad year for the stock market means the state pension crisis is about to be a major issue again.
• The Pennsylvania Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz just keeps getting weirder:
Hey @DrOz ????
JERSEY loves you + will not forget you!!! ???? pic.twitter.com/YmaXfMpzUK
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 14, 2022