The Deciding Vote: Joe Manchin and the Build Back Better Act

A discussion regarding the recent developments with Senator Joe Manchin, the Build Back Better Act, and our future.


Edoardo Cuoghi / Unsplash

Currently, Congress is experiencing a lot of inner turmoil over the filibuster and the Build Back Better Act.

A name that you can be sure to hear echoed off the walls of the U.S Capitol, is West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He is amongst the self-labeled centrists and moderates in Washington D.C and has drawn a lot of criticism throughout his career for being a conservative democrat. Recently, he has been the subject of major public attention, both positive and negative, for refusing to be a deciding vote that moves the Build Back Better Plan forward.

The main reason cited by Senator Manchin has been the proposed legislation’s cost: roughly $2 trillion. His public statement on the Build Back Better Act read, “My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.” Manchin goes on to say, “I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores, and utility bills with no end in sight.”

Manchin’s reasoning has drawn a very mixed response. An anonymous Bronx Science student found his concerns to be valid, saying, “I agree it is too much, but it comes from a good place,” finding his concerns to be valid.

Another had the exact opposite reaction, and said, “I strongly disapprove, as the bill would likely pay for itself through economic benefit, especially if taxes on the wealthy were increased.”

These two reactions are representative of two of the mainstream opinions on this issue. Those who agree with Manchin see his decision to vote against the act as saving our country from inflation and more national debt. The other end feels that this is just another move on Manchin’s part to prevent any positive change for the U.S.

One group that falls under the latter category is the Coal Miners Union, whose members have been pushing Manchin to reverse his decision. The president of the union, Cecil Roberts, said, “We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.”

While Manchin claims to be voting against the act in order to protect hard-working Americans, many of the hard-working Americans that he represents, such as coal miners, want him to vote in the opposite direction.

The union has expressed that the Build Back Better Act would be beneficial to them, providing resources to workers dealing with “Black Lung,” (caused by breathing in too much coal dust, which impairs a person’s ability to breathe) or sanctions motivating companies to allow unionization.

The Coal Miners Union has a real chance of persuading Joe Manchin who represents one of the top coal-producing states in the U.S. However, loyalty to coal miners may be overridden by Manchin’s financial support from the coal mining companies, from which he has received the most campaign donations out of any senator currently in office.

At the moment, there is a filibuster being held by Republicans against the act. The mechanism of the filibuster involves prolonging the debate on a bill in order to postpone or even prevent voting on a bill. In order to end a filibuster 60 out of the 100 senators need to vote to end the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attempted to end it. But this filibuster doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and with the bill’s lack of support on Manchin’s end, it might not end for a while.

However, Manchin noted that he would be open to a different version of the bill. Manchin’s support is crucial considering that he and democratic senator for Arizona Krysten Sinema are the only democrats against the bill, and it would be very difficult to persuade republican senators to vote for it. Manchin has said that he is on board with dealing with the climate crisis. In spite of this, he is very concerned about many of the aspects, including the expanded child tax credit due to its cost.

The expanded child tax credit would mean families receive more money on their tax exemptions per child with more frequent payments. If this was removed from the bill, Manchin would likely be much more open to supporting it.

On the other hand, the progressives in Congress are staunchly in favor of the tax credit, alongside around 57% of the U.S. population. Recently, a democratic senator of Colorado, Michael Bennet, voiced his support for keeping the tax credit, saying, “We know over the last six months that people have spent the money the way we said they were going to spend the money, which was to buy groceries, to pay for rent, really importantly to pay for child care so they could stay at work.”

The democratic senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, while being in favor of renegotiating the bill so that some version of it can pass, is against the removal of the expanded child tax credit. Additionally, roughly 63% of Americans are in favor of the bill. In the state that Manchin represents, West Virginia, the approval rating is around 49%. While Manchin’s vote might be relatively popular in West Virginia, the majority of Americans are against his vote.

Many progressives already have issues with Manchin, with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stating, “The issue that we have is that every day Joe Manchin wakes up, he has a different demand. And he wants to start over from scratch every single day.” This quote is emblematic of how many progressives feel about the situation, as Manchin continues to strike down the bill and list different problems he has with it. Recently, Manchin said that he is willing to begin discussing and negotiating the bill again, and that these discussions will begin from scratch, as the future of this bill hangs in limbo.

On the matter of Manchin’s public statements on this bill, Daniel Coyotecatl ʼ25 said, “I disapprove because people’s health and lives have no price.” All three of the Bronx Science students interviewed agreed that the Build Back Better Act was a good idea that could help a lot of people. But right now all we can do is wait and see if this bill survives the senate.

“The issue that we have is that every day Joe Manchin wakes up, he has a different demand. And he wants to start over from scratch every single day,” said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.