West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on Sunday hailed the legislation he almost killed off by calling the rewritten bill to pay down US debt and tackle the climate crisis that he finally agreed to last week “great for America”.
Manchin agreed on a deal with Senate majority leader and fellow Democrat Chuck Schumer last Wednesday, announcing an expansive $739bn package, that had eluded them for months, that addresses healthcare and the climate crisis, raising taxes on high earners and corporations and reducing federal debt.
The bill replaces the $3.5tn Build Back Better flagship infrastructure and social support legislation that Manchin crushed last year and the reduced version that suffered a near-death experience just weeks ago after Manchin turned away from that too, after months of negotiations.
The new legislation, now called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, could pass the Senate this week, although it is not a done deal and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has not yet committed. As a budget-related bill, Democrats aim to be able to use the so-called reconciliation process to pass it with a simple majority in the Senate, which would need all 50 Democratic Senators in the 100-seat chamber and the swing vote of US vice-president Kamala Harris to pass.
“I sure hope so,” Manchin told CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning, when asked if the Senate would vote to approve the bill before they go on summer recess at the end of the week.
It’s “a great opportunity. It’s not a Democrat bill, it’s not a Republican bill, it’s definitely not a ‘green’ bill, it’s a red, white and blue bill,” he told host Jake Tapper.
Manchin appeared to walk away from the legislation earlier this month on inflation concerns, enraging supporters of climate action and his own colleagues on Capitol Hill. He has repeatedly thwarted his own party and was seen as jeopardizing world climate goals and, at home, Democratic fortunes in the midterm and 2024 elections, while himself making millions in the coal industry.
He refused to support more funding for climate action and came out against tax raises for wealthy Americans to pay for it.
“There were things in there I considered could be considered inflammatory…inflation is the biggest challenge we have in our country,” he said on Sunday.
Then, he added, “we re-engaged” in negotiations. “I never did walk away,” he said.
There was relief among Democrats and climate experts last week, and a sense of turning a corner if the bill passes, both for climate action and the fortunes of the beleaguered Biden administration.
Manchin hailed US president Joe Biden, even though he won’t say whether he will support him for re-election in 2024.
“You do not do anything of this size without the president,” he said of the bill, adding he was “very grateful” to Biden for his support in the negotiations.
The bill includes $369bn, especially tax credits to encourage renewable energy production that gets the US close to its planet-heating emissions reductions target of a 50% cut by 2030, and support for purchasing electric cars.