More Democrats in Congress warming to unbundling Build Back Better Act into smaller bills

The White House denied it is seeking to propose a scaled-down version of the mega-spending bill, which includes new federal benefit programs and about $550 billion for climate-related initiatives.

Updated: January 18, 2022 - 11:24pm

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More Democrat lawmakers are warming to the idea of breaking up the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better Act into smaller bills with better prospects for passage in the 50-50 Senate.

President Joe Biden's mega-spending bill, which passed the Democratic-led House in December, includes new federal benefit programs and about $550 billion for climate-related initiatives. It also includes an extension of the expanded child tax credit.

Budget experts have projected that the cost of the legislation would reach nearly $5 trillion over a 10-year period.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said in December that he planned to vote against the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act, citing inflation hitting its highest level in nearly 40 years and other concerns. Manchin's opposition sank Democratic hopes of passing the Build Back Better Act in fully intact form.

The idea of unbundling the original bill appears to be gaining steam among Democratic lawmakers as a way to move some of the original bill to passage in the 50-50 Senate.

It's unclear which parts of the original bill would be included in the first smaller piece of legislation.

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is a strong supporter of eliminating the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction (SALT). He said the part of the legislation that eliminates that cap would have to be attached to another portion of the original bill, given that it likely would not pass alone in the 50-50 Senate.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin has signaled support for a new version of the legislation.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren has likewise signaled receptivity to disaggregating the legislation as a fallback option. 

"I'm open to whatever is going to get us across the finish line knowing we're not going to get one single Republican to lower the price of prescription drugs, not one to give us universal childcare, not one who's going to say that these corporations that make billions in profits are going to not get away any longer with paying zero in taxes," Warren said on Tuesday. "We've got all those in Build Back Better. We just need to get what we can across the finish line."

White House spokesman Andrew Bates denied a Reuters report on Tuesday that suggested the White House is working on an alternate spending package that incorporates portions of the original Build Back Better Act.

"Reuters is wrong," Bates said in a statement. "We are always in touch with members about this, and the substance and details of this report are off-base." 

The idea of unbundling the legislation is also hitting roadblocks with climate advocates who are voicing opposition to the approach, according to The Washington Post.

The original bill contained funding for green tax credits, including a rebate that would apply to the purchase of electric vehicles. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer predicted last week that a new version of the Build Back Better Act would pass in Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said there is a deal to be had with Manchin in particular.