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Manchin Should Return to Table on ‘Build Back Better’

Sen. Joe Manchin has taken the opportunity to flex his power in Washington. And we need him to keep fighting for West Virginia. He’s drawn the ire of many in his own party by effectively slamming the brakes on passage of President Biden’s $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” agenda, with a deal in the new year far from guaranteed. However, I see light at the end of the tunnel in 2022 because there is too much good in the package that can help working people in West Virginia.

Manchin’s actions were so tectonic that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has now on several occasions publicly floated an invitation to Manchin to switch parties, saying he’d be “more comfortable” in the GOP caucus.

I’d say that’s wishful thinking on McConnell’s part.

Our senator has made his point — he believes Democrats misinterpreted the 2020 election results. In Sen. Manchin’s view, the razor-thin majorities secured by his party signaled an invitation not to implement radical change but instead to return the country to a sense of business-as-usual.

The Democratic party has heard this view and, in good faith, has worked with Manchin to focus the size and scope of “Build Back Better” to accommodate a more targeted agenda. Fundamental evidence of this can be found simply by comparing the original $6 trillion number that was discussed all those months ago to what was passed by the House in November — a 71% reduction in the top-line price tag. I suspect that there is still a deal to be made.

Whatever shape “Build Back Better” takes in 2022 — and understanding Manchin’s concerns — the Democratic party can’t afford to miss the moment to implement critical elements of Biden’s important agenda. Important areas of “Build Back Better” will assist millions of Americans, including many in West Virginia, in easing the burdens of daily life, from securing childcare to ensuring quality education and health coverage to creating clean energy jobs.

Take, for example, the electric vehicle tax credits contained in “Build Back Better,” an integral part of the president’s climate agenda. Implementing these credits would simply be an expansion of an existing federal program. The maximum $12,500 credit — which, effectively, could be applied as an immediate discount to an EV’s MSRP — would go to those consumers who choose to purchase an electric vehicle that was domestically manufactured using union labor.

This program has serious practical merit at the national level, but is especially relevant for West Virginians. While it indeed makes the U.S. more globally competitive in an EV market currently owned by China and levels the playing field for U.S. auto workers, it accomplishes important work closer to home, too. The EV tax credits point to West Virginia’s proud history of supporting union labor that built a strong middle class, and makes it far easier for those middle-class West Virginian consumers to purchase an EV and contribute to the fight against climate change.

What’s more, the EV tax credits are a critical partner to the bipartisan “hard infrastructure” bill that has already become law, which calls for the creation of EV infrastructure from coast to coast. The national EV ecosystem laid out in the hard-infrastructure bill makes sense in light of the EV tax credits and provides the necessary incentives to U.S. automakers to make appropriate investments in an electric future for drivers.

The tax credits are but one example of several individual components contained within the larger bill that are critically needed to build an America that is better equipped to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. These programs are popular with the American people, and there’s the will to get them done.

Manchin has always been a powerful and vocal advocate for his constituents in Washington, and no one should expect otherwise from a seasoned, veteran dealmaker and politician. Democrats have noted the senator’s concerns and believe that there is a path forward in 2022 on “Build Back Better,” one that will not only serve the interests of West Virginians, but those of the entire nation. They’ve also made it clear on a good-faith basis that they can be flexible.

Sen. Manchin — we’ve heard you. It’s time to play ball and bring home a deal for the people.

Bailey is the former deputy secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs and a former state senator representing West Virginia’s 9th district.

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