Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key centrist Democrat, announced on
Wednesday that he had agreed to include hundreds of billions of dollars for climate
and energy programs and tax increases in a package to subsidize health care and
lower the cost of prescription drugs, less than two weeks after abruptly upending
hopes for such an agreement this summer.
Passage of the bill would be a major legislative victory for Mr Biden.
It is not clear what prompted the senator’s dramatic reversal to support the new bill.
He is something of a political anomaly, representing a conservative state that voted
overwhelmingly for former President Donald Trump.
Earlier this week, the 74-year-old tested positive for Covid. He is fully vaccinated and
wrote on Twitter that he was experiencing mild symptoms.
In a joint statement on Wednesday evening with Senate Democratic leader Chuck
Schumer, Mr Manchin provided few specifics about his change in position on the bill
Is said to be much more modest than the $3.5tn (£2.9tn) version Democrats
originally put forward
Would arguably help the US lower its carbon emissions by about 40% by the year 2030
Would devote $369bn to climate policies such as tax credits for solar panels, wind
turbines and electric vehicles, and to tackling the impact of pollution on low-income
“By a wide margin, this legislation will be the greatest pro-climate legislation that
has ever been passed by Congress,” Mr Schumer said.
Mr Manchin and Mr Schumer also maintained the measure would pay for itself by
raising $739bn (£608bn) over the decade through hiking the corporate minimum tax
on big companies to 15%, beefing up Internal Revenue Service tax enforcement and
allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices.
President Biden needs the support of all 50 Democratic senators, along with Vice
President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, to get the bill through the Senate and
send it to the House of Representatives – where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.
If passed, the legislation would mark a major breakthrough for the president,
enshrining a number of his major policy goals into law and offering to salvage a
domestic economic agenda that has in recent months stalled under failed
The bill still amounts to significantly less than what the White House had hoped to
achieve in its original $1.9tn Build Back Better agenda – an ambitious plan to
comprehensively rewrite the US’s health, education, climate and tax laws.
That earlier plan, which for months has floundered in the Senate with an uncertain
future, is now “dead”, Mr Manchin said on Wednesday.
Barely a fortnight ago, the senator exasperated the White House by saying he could
only back the portions of the proposal relating to pharmaceutical prices and
“I have worked diligently to get input from all sides,” Mr Manchin said on Wednesday
He had previously expressed concern that policies boosting the development of clean
energy without also increasing fossil fuel production could hurt the US by making it
more dependent on foreign imports.