Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to reporters outside of his office on Capitol Hill on January 4, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Manchin's interests are 'his family and his own pocketbook' says Errol Lewis
04:00 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia dealt a huge blow to his party when he and his staff told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer he won’t support the climate or tax provisions of a reconciliation package the two had been negotiating for months.

This comes months after the senator torpedoed the Biden administration’s original tax and spending package, otherwise known as the Build Back Better Act, sharing concerns over certain provisions of the massive tax and spending bill and how it may exacerbate soaring inflation in the country. Democrats needed Manchin’s support to pass the legislation along party lines in a process called budget reconciliation, which requires all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to agree to advance legislation.

But Manchin’s decision – while a step back for Democrats who were hoping to see progress on a climate and spending package – could free up room to get a few other Democratic priorities to Biden’s desk before the chamber leaves for August recess. Here’s where the negotiations stand:

A narrower version of the reconciliation package

While Manchin didn’t agree to climate provisions in the package, Democrats are now eyeing an extremely narrow reconciliation bill focusing on prescription drug prices and subsidies for the Affordable Care Act before the August recess to avoid major rate hikes that will be announced just before the midterm elections in November.

The subsidies were expanded as part of the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan and made coverage on the Obamacare exchanges more affordable, leading to record enrollment this year. If they are allowed to expire at the end of the year, nearly all of the 13 million subsidized enrollees will see their premiums rise for 2023, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 3 million people could become uninsured, an Urban Institute analysis found.

Democrats are hoping to avoid the negative publicity of such premium increases. If Congress doesn’t act, consumers will learn in the fall just how much more they could have to pay. Open enrollment begins on November 1, a week ahead of Election Day.

A bill that would increase competitiveness with China

Schumer is pushing forward with a $52 billion bill to boost domestic semiconductor production to address the chip shortage while key Republicans who would be needed to advance the plan are pumping the brakes.

The bill would be a scaled back version of the larger China competitiveness legislation, which has been stalled after disputes on what it should include and the threat of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell derailing it if Democrats move forward with the tax and spending package they would pass along party lines.

Republican leaders have previously said they’d be open to passing a narrow bill that focuses mainly on the issue of producing semiconductor chips, but on Thursday, Republicans blamed Democrats for mishandling the chips legislation. It’s unclear if senators could strike a deal before August recess.

Changes to the Electoral Reform Act

Senators from both parties have reached an agreement to clarify that the vice president only has a ceremonial role in overseeing the certification of the electoral results, meaning this could be the first legislative response to former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

The agreement will be part of a larger deal to overhaul the Electoral Count Act. The effort was spawned by Trump’s effort to get Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence to disregard now-President Joe Biden’s electoral win and install him into a second term, with senators looking to make it harder to do that future.

The pressure campaign against the vice president has been a key part of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol Hill insurrection.

Two Senate sources told CNN on Thursday that a bipartisan group of senators plans to unveil the proposal as soon as next week.

Burn pits legislation

Congress is poised to pass long-awaited legislation that would help millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service.

Burn pits were commonly used to burn waste, including everyday trash, munitions, hazardous material and chemical compounds at military sites throughout Iraq and Afghanistan until about 2010.

These massive open-air burn pits, which were often operated at or near military bases, released dangerous toxins into the air that, upon exposure, may have caused short- and long-term health conditions, according to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

If signed into law, the bill would widely expand health care resources and benefits to those exposed to burn pits and could provide coverage for up to 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans. It adds conditions related to burn pit and toxic exposure, including hypertension, to the VA’s list of illnesses that have been incurred or exacerbated during military service.

After it passed the House this week, it will now go back to Senate for final passage and to Biden’s desk. Once signed into law, it would amount to a major bipartisan victory.