The Democratic Party, hand in hand with its majority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, has reached an agreement with its discordant head senator, the moderate Joe Manchin III (West Virginia), to unblock a washed-out version of the star plan of spending by President Joe Biden. Schumer and Manchin agreed on Wednesday on a legal package, which seemed definitively doomed to failure after months of back and forth, and includes tax reforms that will affect multinational companies and the highest incomes, measures to combat climate change and to increase energy security, reductions in prescription drugs and a cut in the deficit.
It is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate next week, just before the August adjournment of congressional sessions on Capitol Hill. If it goes ahead – and everything indicates that he will, because the Democrats have the votes, fair, but enough – it will be a relief for Biden, whose economic agenda is stuck and his acceptance rate is rock bottom.
The so-called Inflation Reduction Act is not, nor does it look too much like Biden’s famous Build Back Better Plan (plan to rebuild better), which promised spending worth 3.5 trillion dollars (which were later reduced to just under two billion). But this agreement, which foresees disbursements in energy matters of 369,000 million dollars and in the health chapter of 64,000 million, comes at least to end months of a bitter internal debate in the party in time for the legislative elections in November. In them, the entire Senate and a third of the House of Representatives are at stake, and the liberals have the losing side after a year and a half of Biden in the White House, which, with runaway inflation, gasoline through the roof , problems of citizen insecurity and a bloody ongoing cultural war, can only be defined as disappointing. This plan is at least something to present to his voters.
“Build Back Better [que fue un eslogan clave durante la campaña presidencial de 2020] he is dead”, Manchin stated bluntly in an extensive statement made public in the afternoon in which he did not go down to the details of what was agreed; “Instead, we have an opportunity to strengthen our country by bringing Americans together.” The plan promises to cut the deficit of some 300,000 million dollars, as well as cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
Biden, who in the morning had ended, with a speech without questions in the Rose Garden of the White House, his confinement due to the coronavirus that he contracted last week, has congratulated himself in a statement for a “historic” legislation: “With With this deal, we have an opportunity to make prescription drugs cheaper (…) and reduce health insurance costs for 13 million citizens.” “This is what the American people have been waiting for. It addresses the problems of today (high health care costs and general inflation) as well as investments in our energy security for the future.”
Manchin is a senator from a traditionally Republican state, West Virginia, heavily dependent on coal, and in which he has made his way in several consecutive elections with a centrist profile. The defense of those energy interests, and of the jobs of their voters, has collided with the aspirations of Biden’s green agenda. But it’s not just about sticking up for his own: Manchin is the Senate member who has received the most donations from the oil, coal and gas sector, according to data collected by OpenSecrets, a sentinel organization that monitors the relationship between economic and legislative power. His opposition to the president’s plans was also based on concern about the effect of spending on inflation, which is at 9.1%, a record not seen in more than four decades.
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It is not clear what has made him change his mind. Weeks ago he said he would not back the plan until he saw new economic data. In his statement, Manchin does not explain what these data are and how they have persuaded him.
The text does say the following: “Instead of risking further inflation with trillions [de dólares] in new spending, this bill will reduce the inflationary taxes Americans pay, lower the cost of health insurance and prescription drugs, and ensure that our country invests in the energy security and climate change solutions we need to stay a global superpower through innovation rather than elimination.
Manchin has become one of the most influential senators in Washington by reining in the shift to the left of the Democratic Party that Biden promised when he entered the White House. He demanded the reduction of unemployment benefits in the stimulus plan promoted during the first days of the Government, knocked down the appointment of the budget director, Neera Tandem, and, in 2018, he voted in favor of the controversial appointment, between accusations of sexual abuse , by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, one of the three justices that Donald Trump snuck into the high court until leaving him as the most conservative in eight decades.
The Senate is split down the middle, with 50 seats on either side of the party line. Democrats have Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. A measure like the one agreed on Wednesday is approved by a legislative method called budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes that, by virtue of filibusterism, are required for far-reaching reforms. No Democrat can miss voting day, and that, in times of the umpteenth wave of covid, with the infections unleashed in the United States by the BA.5 subvariant, adds suspense to the matter.