The youth-led Sunrise Movement warned Wednesday that Democrats will get wiped out in the upcoming midterm electionsand potentially beyondif they fail to pass the Build Back Better Act, which is on the verge of collapse as right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin continues to withhold his support from the party's agenda.
"If Democrats come to the midterm elections with a message of 'we tried, please vote for us,' they will lose and they will deserve it,"Varshini Prakash, Sunrise's executive director, said in a statement. "This is why people feel neglected and disillusioned by our government, and this is why an entire generation of young people are losing hope in the political process."
"Indefinitely postponing a vote on Build Back Better could mean a death sentence for millions."
"If Democrats are trying to lock themselves out of power for decades," she added, "this surrender to the preferences of one corrupt senator is an excellent first step."
Prakash's message came in response to reports that the Senate Democratic leadership intends to shelve plans for a pre-Christmas vote on the $1.75 trillion reconciliation package and instead work to advance long-stalled voting rights legislationa daunting task due in large part to Manchin's defense of the 60-vote filibuster rule, which effectively gives the Republican minority veto power over most bills.
NBC News reported Wednesday that "Senate Democrats are discussing changing the rules to allow for passage on a 50-vote majority, a move that remains uncertain."
"A group of four moderate Democrats, including Manchin, have held numerous meetings in the past several days to discuss a possible rule change. Additional meetings are planned for Wednesday," the outlet noted.
Prakash argued that while "Democratic leaders might try to spin this as a shift in focus to voting rights... voting rights isn't why the Senate 'negotiated' for months, cutting out vital policy at the request of one man, and now seems poised to do nothing to seize our best chance to enact meaningful climate legislation in decades."
"After a year of climate disasters killing hundreds of people through brutal storms, tornadoes, and fatal heat waves," Prakash continued, "indefinitely postponing a vote on Build Back Better could mean a death sentence for millions."
Originally a $3.5 trillion proposal, the Build Back Better Act has been dramatically weakened in recent months as right-wing Democratswhose votes are necessary to get the bill through both chambers of Congresshave forced the removal of a range of popular proposals, from an ambitious clean electricity program to dental and vision benefits for Medicare recipients.
"The Senate must pass and President Biden must sign the Build Back Better Act before the year ends."
Now, Manchin is reportedly attempting to cut the legislation further by zeroing out funding for the enhanced child tax credit, under which eligible families have received monthly payments of up to $300 per child under the age of six and $250 per child between the ages of six and 17. The Build Back Better Act would extend the soon-to-expire program for another year.
Fully cutting off the monthly payments, as Manchin is reportedly proposing, would push around 10 million children back into poverty or into even deeper poverty, a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated.
According to the Washington Post, "The gaps between the two sides [of the Build Back Better talks] remain immense, with Biden seeking to safeguard his economic agenda from significant cuts while Manchin continues to insist on steep spending reductions."
Claire Guzdar, a spokesperson for the ProsperUS coalition, said in a statement Wednesday that "any claims that we should pass up a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make vital public investments are misguided."
"The Build Back Better Act is deeply-needed, widely popular, and economically soundand lays the foundation for an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and large corporations," said Guzdar. "The Senate must pass and President Biden must sign the Build Back Better Act before the year ends."