Manchin Has More Bad News For Biden’s Massive “Build Back Better” Spending Bill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) had more difficult news for Joe Biden and the Congressional Progressive Caucus over the weekend as he laid out a line he says he will not cross when considering the administration’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation spending bill.

Manchin told administration officials that he would not support the plan unless the child tax credit plan included a “firm work requirement” and an income cap of around $60,000 in household earnings. Axios reported that Manchin’s demands would “dramatically weaken” Biden’s bill.

In opposing the bill as proposed, Manchin has been joined by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), both because of its hefty price tag and particularly in Sinema’s case, because of the increased taxes that are part of the package.

Progressives are staunch supporters of the child tax credit plan as currently proposed, which is projected to cost taxpayers around $1.6 trillion over the next ten years.

Manchin’s demands regarding the child tax credit would also require substantial changes to the current statutory provisions regarding the credit. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that Biden signed into law back in March funded the child tax credit program for one year. The change made at that time pays most families up to $3,600 annually by direct deposit. That is an increase from $2,000 per year.

Manchin did tell the administration that he might support the part of the bill that would subsidize child care while funding universal preschool for all children. That program is projected to cost about $450 billion.

The central theme behind Manchin’s positions appears to be implementing means-testing for benefits and including work requirements for beneficiaries. He told CNN in September that he supports the concept of child tax credits but would expect that the law makes “sure that we’re getting it to the right people.” 

Manchin has firmly stated on multiple occasions that any bill without the Hyde Amendment is “dead on arrival” for him. The Hyde Amendment is a legislative clause that has been included in federal spending legislation since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that restricts the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion treatments.

Manchin holds a tremendous amount of bargaining power due to the split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. The White House cannot afford to lose Manchin’s support if the administration expects to pass any reconciliation spending bill. It remains to be seen how Manchin will make use of his political power as Democrats struggle to salvage Biden’s wildly ambitious spending plan.