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Debate: Should Congress Support Manchin's Scaled-Back Build Back Better Act?

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has proposed a dramatically scaled-back version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, one that would eliminate expanded child care provisions, universal pre-kindergarten, national paid family leave and long-term home health care.

Instead, Manchin has proposed that Congress focus on a single social spending program that would be enacted over a 10-year period. The remaining funds that would be generated from tax code changes and prescription drug reform would be earmarked for fighting inflation and reducing the national debt.

We asked two professors and authors of ALM’s Tax Facts with opposing political viewpoints to share their opinions about Manchin’s latest pitch of a scaled-back version of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA).

Below is a summary of the debate that ensued between the two professors.

Their Votes:

Byrnes

Bloink

Their Reasons:

Byrnes: Sen. Manchin is right to try focusing his colleagues’ attention on a few key programs rather than a broad array of family relief and social spending programs. Expanded child care, universal pre-kindergarten, national paid family leave and long-term home health care are all important initiatives. Of course, so are programs designed to combat the effects of climate change.

The fact is, our government can’t do everything at once, and we shouldn’t enact such a broad array of programs that are likely to get stuck in the federal budget for decades to come regardless of whether they’re effective. 

Bloink: Democrats in Congress are in a unique position to get things done — one that we may not see again for years to come. The vast majority of the provisions in President Biden’s social spending package are popular with most Americans.

Last year, the bill was held up by only two Democrats in Congress [Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona] who have been unwilling to compromise to get things done. Now, it’s time for Democrats to take a hard line in negotiating with those congressional leaders to get things done while we still have the opportunity. 

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Byrnes: Manchin is right to try shifting focus to the practicalities of enacting broad-based social spending programs. While it’s important to deliver on campaign promises, it’s also important to be practical. His new proposal would also keep our government focused on taking steps to minimize the national debt and finding ways to pay for these ambitious programs.

Bloink: We need to focus on what Americans want and need — not what one lone member of Congress has decided to support. This isn’t the time to be going back on campaign promises simply because one lawmaker wants to hold Congress hostage and force his own version of the bill into play.

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Byrnes: It’s much more important to be focused on inflation and debt reduction right now. Inflation is affecting every single American — both Republicans and Democrats. Spending billions on social programs isn’t going to lower costs for the American public.

Bloink: Inflation isn’t happening in a vacuum. The BBBA was designed to increase access to affordable child care options so that people can get back to work. Countless workers are staying home because they can’t afford the child care that’s necessary for them to get back to work. Businesses can’t hire — we all know how the labor shortage is affecting businesses today. These issues are all interrelated and must be addressed as a whole, rather than piecemeal as Manchin proposes.

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