Sen. Joe Manchin III threw cold water Thursday on President Biden’s hopes for a quick restart to talks on the administration’s failed $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said any discussions on the mammoth social welfare and climate change package would be “starting from scratch.”
“We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper and start over,” he said. “If anybody wants to talk, I’ll always talk.”
Mr. Manchin said Congress should consider other pressing matters, including inflation and the coronavirus pandemic, before returning to the spending deal.
“The main thing we need to do is take care of the inflation. Get your financial house in order. Get a tax code that works,” he said. “We can do a lot of good things. … But get your financial house in order. Get this inflation down. Get COVID out of the way and then we’ll be rolling.”
The remarks come one day after Mr. Biden pledged to break up Build Back Better and try to pass it in pieces.
“I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now and come back and fight for” other elements after the midterm elections in the fall,” the president said during a White House press conference.
Mr. Biden said the focus this year will be on passing the package’s early childhood education and climate-change provisions. Left until at least the midterms will be the White House’s push to revive the expanded child tax credit that expired this month and free community college.
“What the president calls ‘chunks’ I would hope would be a major bill going forward,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “It may be more limited, but it is still significant.”
It remains to be seen whether even a piecemeal approach to Build Back Better will work.
Given universal GOP opposition, Democrats will have to pass the legislation using budget reconciliation. The process allows some spending and tax measures to avert the 60-vote filibuster threshold within the evenly split Senate and pass via a simple majority.
For that to work, Mr. Manchin and other moderates will need to be brought on board, something the White House failed to do with the original Build Back Better bill.