How 14 policies could survive — or die — after Manchin’s ‘no’

By | December 20, 2021

It’s time for Democrats to try salvaging popular pieces of President Joe Biden’s social spending package, after Sen. Joe Manchin delivered his hard “no” on the sum of those parts Sunday.

The West Virginia moderate said he can’t back the $1.7 trillion package. But Manchin has supported many of the bill’s individual policies, giving hope for Democratic leaders now plotting to get the centrist senator on board with a far slimmer proposal or spinning off other bills that include some of the package’s well-liked items.

Manchin’s approval has always been a key indicator of a proposal’s chance of surviving in the package. Now more than ever, Democrats will be gauging the West Virginian’s support to determine each policy’s chance of getting signed into law in the remaining year of the 117th Congress.

Here‘s where Manchin stands on individual pieces of the president’s plan:

Child Tax Credit

What’s in the BBB: Extension of the beefed-up Child Tax Credit that Democrats pushed through in March, which many of them considered a landmark legislative achievement since taking control of the White House and Congress.

The huge expansion of the program, which benefits an estimated 61 million children, will expire at the end of the year unless Democrats find some way to keep it alive or revive it after it lapses. The IRS cut its final round of monthly checks for 2021 last week, sending about $16 billion to more than 36 million families.

The demise of the expansion would mean the end of payments for millions of children whose families would no longer qualify. The maximum credit would fall to $2,000 from $3,600, it would revert to a yearly benefit instead of a monthly payment and a work requirement for parents would be reinstated.

Manchin’s take: Manchin wanted fewer upper-income households to qualify for the benefit and said the work requirement should be brought back. He also considered the one-year extension a budget gimmick because it was likely to be extended again later.

Many Democrats wanted to make the expansion permanent. But bowing to Manchin’s objection to the price of the overall spending package, they settled on a one-year extension in the House bill.

Universal Pre-K

What’s in it: $380 billion to lower the cost of child care and establish universal pre-K for the nation’s 3- and 4-year-olds.

Manchin’s take: While the senator has expressed concerns with policies like child care subsidies and extending the boosted Child Tax Credit, Manchin has been supportive of federal assistance to guarantee universal preschool, which already exists in his home state.

Universal public pre-K for 4-year-olds in West Virginia was partly rolled out while Manchin was governor. Slightly more than two-thirds of all 4-year-olds in the state were enrolled in the program last year.

Child nutrition assistance

What’s in it: $10 billion in child nutrition assistance to offer free school meals to almost 9 million more students. The bill would also provide a $65-per-child benefit each month to help the families buy groceries during the summer months when school is closed. That aid would go to about 29 million children. These summer payments are currently funded through 2022, but the package would have extended them beyond that.

Manchin’s take: The assistance would be a major investment for West Virginia. Manchin has himself noted that about 257,000 children and their families received the P-EBT payments in his home state last summer.

“No family should have to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table for their children,” the West Virginia Democrat said this summer, touting the fact that the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package Biden signed in March extended the payments “to ensure our students and children in childcare don’t go hungry during the summer months.”

Clean energy perks

What’s in it: $555 billion for tackling climate change and reducing U.S. carbon emissions, the nation’s largest-ever investment in addressing what the White House has identified as an existential priority for the globe.

The House-passed legislation would have expanded existing tax credits that have helped the clean energy industry grow, tying the credits to the Biden administration’s manufacturing and labor priorities. Democrats latched onto the tax incentives as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions without triggering Manchin’s objections to penalizing fossil fuels. The credits would have gone toward promoting domestic manufacturing, carbon capture, clean fuels, nuclear power, electric vehicles and clean hydrogen.

Manchin’s take: While he never expressed direct hostility to the clean energy tax package, Manchin objected to proposals to grant the fullest electric vehicle tax credits of $12,500 to people who buy cars and trucks made with unionized American labor. Cars from other manufacturers, including Tesla and Toyota, would qualify for only $7,500 in credits. Manchin’s state is home to a Toyota manufacturing facility, and he has said it was “not American” to favor some U.S.-based manufacturers over others.

The House-passed bill called for the clean energy tax credits to last for a decade, which could be a selling point for Manchin, who has been urging Democratic leaders to revamp the bill to fund all of the programs for 10 years and offset the cost over the same time frame. So some climate activists were still expressing hope Sunday that the credits could survive in a subsequent bill.

Oil and gas leasing hikes

What’s in it: Increased fees for oil and gas leases on federal lands for the first time in a century, as well as a ban on new leases in waters off the Atlantic, Pacific and Eastern Gulf coasts.

Manchin’s take: While Manchin was vague about which climate items he supported, he openly backed a revamp of the oil and gas leasing fees as an issue of fairness to taxpayers. As chair of the Senate Energy Committee, he proposed bill text last week that would temper some of the increases to federal oil and gas leasing fees relative to the House version and nix the ban on offshore leasing off the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Methane fee

What’s in it: A system for charging oil and gas companies for methane pollution from sources like natural gas wells, along with $775 million to help the industry rein in its emissions.

Manchin’s take: Manchin has been clear about his opposition to any policy he viewed as “punitive” to the oil and gas industry. That stance put the methane fee on the line, though Senate negotiators exerted confidence for weeks that they could reach a middle ground with Manchin.

Medicaid expansion

What’s in it: A system to provide health care coverage for some low-income households in the dozen states that didn’t expand their Medicaid programs under Obamacare. No state funding would be required for that coverage.

Manchin’s take: Manchin objected to the way the expansion would reward “holdout” states while leaving those that expanded their programs, like West Virginia, on the hook for some of the safety net program’s costs.

Medicare expansion

What’s in it: Expanded Medicare benefits to include dental, vision and hearing. That coverage would be phased in over most of the next decade.

Manchin’s take: Manchin objected to adding new benefits, warning the entitlement program is headed toward insolvency in its present form. He eventually acceded to a pared-back plan to cover just hearing, but then said that even those benefits may be a problem — citing concerns about the program’s cash flow.

Prescription drug price negotiations

What’s in it: The power for Medicare to directly negotiate the price of certain drugs and levy an excise tax on companies that don’t comply. It also would have capped out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions covered under Medicare Part D.

Manchin’s take: The senator expressed support for the concept of Medicare negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs, pointing to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which buys drugs directly from manufacturers and has a unified list of covered medicines.

Climate-smart agriculture

What’s in it: Over $28 billion for conservation programs and $27 billion to maintain forests, reduce fire risks and capture carbon in trees. Climate-related farm and forestry programs for conservation made up the bulk of the agriculture money in the bill, and included programs to reward farmers, ranchers and forest landowners for adopting practices that reduce emissions.

Democrats had previously touted the amount as “the largest investment in conservation since the Dust Bowl.”

Manchin’s take: Manchin’s opposition to the bill’s climate provisions have largely ignored the agriculture policies. Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have been in talks with Manchin this fall, making a push to keep the agriculture items intact.

Manchin has directed his criticism toward climate policies like a proposed methane fee on companies, leading supporters of the agriculture provisions to assume their programs would evade the senator’s ire. The most recent version of the bill in the Senate even included an extra $2 billion in technical assistance for agriculture conservation.

Transportation

What’s in it: Just over $57 billion for transportation, with the largest piece going toward helping build out high speed rail, to the tune of $10 billion.

It would also devote nearly $10 billion to a program that would tie affordable housing to clean transit options. Critics have accused the authors of the social spending plan of “double dipping,” saying the funding violates Biden’s pledge against using the package to invest in infrastructure already funded under the bipartisan infrastructure bill Biden signed last month.

The House bill also would allocate more than $2 billion to improve “walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access” in neighborhoods and $4 billion to improve greenhouse gas emissions on roads.

Manchin’s take: The senator hasn’t specifically taken aim at the transportation funding, but enactment in November of the $550 billion infrastructure package reduces the pressure to put more federal cash toward transportation projects.

Big tech crackdown

What’s in it: A $1 billion boost for antitrust enforcement, split evenly between the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission, that could help the cash-strapped agencies continue waging major cases against Google and Facebook or launch potential suits against Apple and Amazon.

The bill would also give the FTC $500 million to create a bureau to police data privacy, a move Democrats say is long overdue after a cascade of massive data breaches and questions surrounding the tech giants’ efforts to track their users’ online behavior. The FTC would also gain the ability to fine companies that deceive consumers by lying about their privacy or data security practices.

Manchin’s take: Manchin has supported privacy legislation but has not specified what kinds of money or authority he would grant the FTC. He also has not stated a position on the antitrust proposals. Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have objected to expanding the FTC’s power to intrude into private businesses, especially given the aggressive antitrust agenda of the agency’s Biden-appointed chair.

Paid family and medical leave

What’s in it: Four weeks of paid leave for U.S. workers, costing around $200 billion. It would cover all workers wishing to take paid time off for the birth of a newborn or care of a family member, as well as for illness or injury beginning in 2024.

Workers with average incomes would receive around two-thirds of their pay. The benefit would be capped at around $800 a week.

Manchin’s take: Manchin has long taken issue with proposals for paid family and medical leave. He pointed to the benefit’s lack of dedicated funding, its potential toll on small businesses and the possibility of fraud, akin to the trickery in the U.S. unemployment insurance system.

Most recently, the senator has insisted Congress pass paid leave in a bipartisan measure, to allow for the input of Republicans and employers.

The Biden administration and House Democrats originally sought 12 weeks of paid leave. But leadership dropped it from an earlier draft of the bill, citing Manchin’s objections.

Rural development

What’s in it: More than $18 billion in funding for rural development, including $1 billion for biofuel infrastructure and another $6 billion to amend the program that provides debt relief for farmers of color.

Manchin’s take: White House officials and Senate and House staffers don’t suspect Manchin opposed that funding in particular.

Eleanor Mueller, Josh Siegel, Kelsey Tamborrino, John Hendel, Kathryn A. Wolfe, Leah Nylen, Toby Eckert and Brian Faler contributed to this report.