Progressive lawmakers on Sunday urged Democratic leaders to immediately bring the Build Back Better Act to the Senate floor for a vote so Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia can go on the record opposing climate action, poverty-slashing child benefits, Medicaid expansion, and other popular proposals in the $1.75 trillion bill.
"The people deserve and demand a vote on the Build Back Better Act," Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said in a statement after Manchin announced he would oppose the reconciliation package, even after it was dramatically weakened to assuage his cynical concerns about the bill's impact on inflation and the national debt.
"The Senate must return to session immediately and bring this historic and transformational bill to a vote so Senator Manchinand every Republican who has opposed it from the very beginningcan demonstrate, on the record, the contempt they have for their constituents and for everyone who calls America home," Pressley added.
Other progressive members of Congressincluding Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.)sent a similar message in response to Manchin's decision to block the Build Back Better Act, which he announced in a Sunday morning appearance onFox News.
"If Joe Manchin wants to say he's a 'no' on the child tax credit, affordable housing, and protecting our climate, then let him vote no on the Senate floornot on Fox News," Bowman wrote on Twitter. "Enough is enough."
Thus far the Senate Democratic leadership has not signaled any plans to bring the Build Back Better Act to the floor as long as it doesn't have the 50 votes needed to pass. The upper chamber adjourned for holiday recess late last week despite mounting calls for senators to work through the holidays on the reconciliation bill, voting rights, and other pressing agenda items.
Manchin's announcement Sunday came as little surprise to progressives, who had long argued that Democratic leaders should keep the Build Back Better Act tied to a bipartisan infrastructure bill that Manchin helped craft alongside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and a group of Senate Republicans.
Last month, House Democratsincluding most members of the Congressional Progressive Caucusopted to pass the fossil fuel-friendly bipartisan bill despite warnings that Manchin would be free to tank the Build Back Better Act once his favored legislation was signed into law, a scenario that appears to be unfolding.
There are six of us that have been saying this all along: Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Pressley, Representative Tlaib, Representative Bowman, Representative Omar, and myself," Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said in an appearance on MSNBC Sunday. "We have been saying this, for weeks, that this would happen."
"Having those coupled together was the only leverage we had. And what did the caucus do? We tossed it," Bush lamented.
On top of the collapse of key child benefits and other safety-net policies that are popular in Manchin's home state of West Virginia and nationwide, the failure of the Build Back Better Act could also mean the death of a once-in-a-generation chance to make substantive investments in tackling the climate crisis, which is wreaking havoc and taking lives across the globe.
Manchin, a longtime ally of the fossil fuel industry and a coal profiteer, removed several of the legislation's more ambitious climate provisions over recent weeks of negotiations, but the measure would still have invested roughly $550 billion in renewable energy initiatives over the next decadea crucial window for climate action as global temperatures continue to rise unabated.
"If the bill truly is a goner, it will be much more than a political setback for the Biden agenda," notedVox's Rebecca Leber. "It will be a colossal tragedy for the planet and future generations, which are depending on the U.S. government to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels this decade with major legislation like this bill, to avoid the worst effects of climate change."
In a statement released Sunday, Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash argued that "we do not live in a democracy when Joe Manchin, a coal baron with clear conflicts of interest, can kill lifesaving climate legislation that is backed by the American people, President Biden, and 49 other senators."
"Let's be clear: the death of BBB isn't just Joe Manchins fault," said Prakash. "The failure of BBB passing is also on Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer. They had a moral obligation to play hard ball with Joe Manchin, and chose not to. History will remember Joe Biden and Democrats for failing to curb emissions and save working people when they had the chance."
"Our leaders have failed us," she added, "and we will replace you."