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With his massive Build Back Better plan stalled in the Senate, President Biden said on Wednesday that Democrats would break up the $1.75 trillion spending package into pieces to try to pass its most important aspects.
“It’s clear to me that we're going to have to probably break it up,” Biden said at a White House press conference marking his first year in office. “I think that we can get — I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues on the Hill — I think it’s clear that we would be able to get the $500-plus billion for energy and the environment issues that are there.”
Biden’s spending plan contains the heart of his efforts to combat climate change, including $555 billion in spending to subsidize the U.S. transition to clean sources of energy. Without the passage of those provisions, experts say the president's pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 will be all but impossible.
But the sweeping Build Back Better package failed to attract the support of moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who insisted that his party cut many of its priorities from the legislation. The legislation would reshape the American social safety net, providing all U.S. workers with paid sick leave and strengthening government-provided health care.
On BBB's climate change provisions, Manchin has given mixed messages. After demanding that Democrats remove a provision that would have incentivized utilities to switch to clean energy, he signaled earlier this month that a slimmer bill that contained climate change legislation could earn his support.
“I think that the climate thing is one that we probably can come to agreement much easier than anything else,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, adding, “There’s a lot of good things in [the bill]. I’ve always said, you know, we have a lot of money in there for innovation, technology, tax credits for basically clean technologies and clean environment.”
Biden did not reference Manchin's comments on BBB’s climate change provisions during his news conference, but he did indicate that Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., would be open to the passage of aspects of the larger bill.
“I know that the two people who have opposed, on the Democratic side, at least, will support a number of things that are in there,” Biden said. “For example, Joe Manchin strongly supports early education between 3 and 4 years of age, strongly supports it. There is strong support for, I think, a number of the ways in which to pay for this proposal.”
For the moment, Democrats have pivoted to voting rights legislation, which also lacks the 60 votes to clear a Republican filibuster. Plans put forth to pass the bill using a variety of legislative tactics, however, have so far been blocked by none other than Manchin.
Following a Wednesday night Senate vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, however, which Democrats are all but certain to lose, the party can once again take up the idea of passing the key portions of BBB.
“I think that we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, and then come back and fight for the rest later,” Biden said.