Faced with solid Republican opposition in Congress to his domestic agenda, President Joe Biden proposed Wednesday splitting the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act into separate pieces but said he wasn't sure the expanded child tax credit would be included.
By scaling back the BBB Act into separate bills, Biden said, he could win passage of large chunks of his domestic priorities, including a $500 billion package of renewable energy incentives that is supported by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
"It's clear to me that we're going to have to probably break it up" and fight for the rest of the bill later, Biden said in his first formal news conference of the year. "I'm confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better [Act] signed into law."
Senate action on the act has been delayed since the House of Representatives passed the bill, or H.R. 5376, in November, while Biden and congressional Democrats sought to win crucial votes from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. The two lawmakers have criticized the bill's price tag and questioned the need for more federal spending.
Democrats have been considering moving a stand-alone version of the one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit that passed as part of the House version of the BBB Act, or passing a package pairing a long-term extension of the incentive with revenue-raising offsets and other items.
However, since Democrats don't have the necessary 50 votes to pass the bill without Manchin and Sinema, Biden said he was uncertain whether he would be able to win passage of an extension of the expanded child credit.
"There's two really big components that I feel strongly about that I'm not sure I can get in the package. One is the child care tax credit. The other is help for the cost of community colleges," Biden said. "They are massive things that I have run on and I care a great deal about."
The BBB Act includes the extension of about 20 energy tax extenders that were scheduled to expire at the end of 2021, most of which have been renewed several times as part of year-end bills or were part of H.R. 848, the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now Act.
Speaking to reporters after the news conference, Manchin declined to comment about Biden's new legislative strategy, saying he hadn't talked to the president.
"I haven't seen or heard anything yet," he said.
Congress has several legislative vehicles that can be used to carry parts of the act, including an upcoming continuing resolution, emergency supplemental spending bill or an omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government after mid-February.
Speaking to reporters following Biden's news conference, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., offered support for breaking up the BBB Act into smaller portions in order to get as much as possible signed into law.
"We need to do what it takes to get every vote. We're not going to get one damn vote from the Republicans for child care, for reducing the cost of prescription drugs or for making billionaire corporations pay their taxes," Warren said. "So we got to shoulder this by ourselves as Democrats."
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