The Biden White was seriously disappointed when, in December 2021, centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he wouldn’t vote for the Build Back Better Act — an announcement that came after months of negotiations. Nonetheless, Biden supporters hoped that some type of BBB compromise could be worked out with Manchin in 2022. But journalist Hans Nichols, in an Axios article published on April 6, stresses that BBB continues to face another major hurdle from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
“Last year, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., publicly sounded the death knell for President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda,” Nichols explains. “Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., his fellow holdout, is privately concurring, Axios has learned…. In closed-door conversations, Sinema has told donors a path to revival is unlikely. That’s dampened expectations Congress will act on a slimmed-down bill before Memorial Day. It also means any revived BBB legislation faces an arduous route back to the center of the Senate agenda.”
Sinema, like Manchin, is a Democratic senator with a decidedly centrist voting record. And she isn’t shy about voting with Republicans at times. However, Arizona Central has reported that Sinema is “expected to vote to confirm” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. On March 10, Sinema described her meeting with Jackson as “very productive” and wrote, “I welcomed hearing directly her belief in the importance of an independent judiciary, her judicial philosophy, and her approach to precedent.”
Manchin has already announced that he will vote to confirm Jackson, as have three moderate Republican senators: Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Sinema, meanwhile, appears to be more enthusiastic about Jackson than she is about reviving the Build Back Better Act.
“No one’s reached out to Sinema about the contours of the slimmed-down (Build Back Better) deal Manchin has discussed, people familiar with the matter tell Axios,” Nichols reports. “Instead, Sinema’s telling donors most of her focus is on the $10 billion COVID-19 relief bill, the so-called China competition legislation and modifications to the Electoral Reform Act…. With an expected vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve as a Supreme Court justice this week, the Senate still wants to act on coronavirus relief before leaving town.”
Nichols adds, “If not, after a two-week recess, senators expect to finalize the new COVID-19 spending and then turn to settling differences with the House over the China bill. As a practical matter, those issues will suck up much of the Senate’s bandwidth, leaving little room for Build Back Better talks.”