WASHINGTON, D.C. - While other issues have taken the national spotlight in recent weeks, President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation still lingers in the background and some lawmakers tell Spectrum News 1 that they would support measures to break down the massive social spending bill into parts.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters earlier this month that the legislation was “dead,” but several other legislators are eyeing proposals that would get certain portions of Build Back Better passed as separate measures. Manchin was one of the two moderate Democrats whose opposition doomed the legislation in the Senate last year.
Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA 2nd) is among those who helped get Build Back Better, in its original form, passed in the House last year.
“People will see the largest expansion of health care coverage since the affordable care act was passed,” McGovern said during a speech on the House floor last November.
McGovern is among those in Congress who have said that compromise can be reached in Washington and pointed to last year’s bi-partisan infrastructure law as an example. The infrastructure bill was originally part of BBB, but was eventually separated and passed on its own with broad Republican support.
“I think it is hopeful there are some things we can agree on,” McGovern told Spectrum News in January.
Fellow Massachusetts colleague Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA 7th), said she’s still “working to pass the Build Back Better Act” in a press release issued last week announcing some investments coming to the state as part of the nation’s investment in infrastructure.
Passing parts of the bill is something even those who voted against the legislation say they will consider.
Representative Jared Golden (D-ME 2nd) is one of those lawmakers. Golden told Spectrum News 1 that he couldn’t support the President’s proposal initially but believes there is a path forward, particularly for passing a bi-partisan measure to reduce drug costs.
“Perhaps the most important part of that proposal is what would be a cap on out of pocket costs for seniors at about $2,000 a year,” Golden said. “For those who have some very expensive medication needs, they’ve ended up paying out of pocket, you know it well in excess of $2,000 a year in a lot of cases. So putting a cap on their out of pocket expenses would be really great.”
Golden added he knows of some Republicans who are open to working on the legislation.
Also included in Biden’s Build Back Better legislation is the creation of a free universal pre-kindergarten program, investments in clean energy and child care subsidies. Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, says a program to deal with the rising cost of child care is something she’d support, but not within the Build Back Better framework.
“The best way to do that is not to invent a new program that has expensive subsidies that would be available to income levels that are a fairly high, but rather take a look at the Child Care Development Block Grant Program, a program that currently exists,” Collins said. “I think we should use the existing programs, beef it up, correct any problems or deficiencies that it has.”
One of Senator Collins' lingering concerns about the child care proposal in BBB is that she said it cuts out child care run by faith organizations.
“It would be devastating if parents who want to participate in faith based child care centers can no longer do so,” Collins said.
President Biden is still touting the entire Build Back Better initiative, as recently as last week during a trip to Virginia to talk about the price of prescription drugs, including insulin.
The Senate and the House are both out this week to conduct work within their districts, and it’s unclear when the Build Back Better legislation will officially be removed from life support or if it might be replaced with smaller, more palatable pieces of legislation that both moderate Democrats and Republicans alike would support.