AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Like most Democrats, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said he was shocked when a member from his own party effectively killed the president’s signature policy item, calling the action “sabotage.”
Doggett told Nexstar on Tuesday that for months, conversations and decisions around the Build Back Better Act had revolved around appeasing Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, a key centrist who has gained voting influence in a 50-50 divided Senate.
“We have really worked for the last six months and made substantial changes in the bill,” he said. “Every time we were looking at a new provision, it was, ‘will this be satisfactory to Joe?’ And felt we had assurances. So I agree with the White House that his change, of course, was a bit inexplicable.”
Manchin’s surprise announcement on “Fox News Sunday” that he would not be voting for the $1.7 trillion package was quickly met with frustration from Democrats.
His decision followed months of negotiations and even private conversations with President Joe Biden, who hoped to get his signature policy across the finish line with Manchin’s support. That’s why Doggett said he “can’t help but view what happened as sabotage.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Nexstar that Democrats should have worked to get bipartisan support on Build Back Better in the first place to avoid this all-or-nothing situation.
“The truth is that Sen. Manchin had been sending a message for months,” Cornyn said. “I think stopping a bad bill that would have added gasoline to this inflation and forcing people to do what doesn’t come naturally, which is to work together to try to build consensus, is actually a good thing.”
Doggett said it would be difficult to take apart the Build Back Better Act and try to indivudally pass certain policies from it.
“With solid Republican opposition, the only way we can pass anything through the United States Senate of significance is through what’s called reconciliation that only takes 51 votes,” he said. “So that’s why this was all merged into one giant bill then split up as it should have been to look at each individual item.”
One key provision Manchin and Republicans expressed opposition to is renewing the Child Tax Credit — one of the most far-reaching federal aid programs launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. It gave up to $300 per child directly into the bank accounts of families on the 15th of every month and expires at the end of 2021.
“It helps so many families, and it is really a tax cut. I think the focus needs to be on tax cuts for those who are struggling to get by in this pandemic and are working, not on those at the very tip top,” Doggett said.
Other aspects of Build Back Better that would benefit Texas, according to a White House analysis, includes some of the following:
- Expand affordable child care for about 2 million children, ages 0-5 for low-income families
- Provide universal preschool for every 3 and 4 year old in Texas, which would amount to more than 571,228 kids
- Increase Pell Grant awards by $550 for college and university students for the 486,377 Texas students relying on Pell Grants
- Provide workforce training grants to 59 community colleges in Texas
- Expand free school meals for 1.6 million K-12 students
- Close the Medicaid coverage gap
Cornyn joined fellow Republicans in celebrating the effective death of the massive spending bill, calling Machin’s decision a win for Americans.
“What we were talking about is a bunch of inflationary spending and higher taxes,” he said. “Everybody’s feeling inflation at the gas pump, at the grocery store, and the cost of appliances and everything else. And that should have been a warning flag to our Democratic colleagues.”
Doggett said Democrats will continue having conversations with Manchin to see if they can come to an agreement again. On Tuesday, Biden also insisted he and Manchin will “get something done.”