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Sen. Joe Manchin’s (WV) December announcement that he could not support the Build Back Better Act (BBB) was a heartbreaking blow for those hoping for quick passage of the transformative economic policy and climate bill.

We were so ready for this vital package to be turned into law. FCNL advocates held over 200 lobby visits during Annual Meeting in November, with a specific focus on the bill’s Child Tax Credit expansions, and the House’s passage of BBB on Nov. 19 had us primed and ready for a Senate vote.

Sen. Manchin’s opposition was discouraging, to say the least. And the news coverage since then has been consistently pessimistic, sending strong signals to readers and viewers that Build Back Better is dead.  

But that is wrong. Build Back Better is not dead.

Negotiations were put on hold in January as the Senate took up voting rights. We fully expect that negotiations to move Build Back Better forward will resume in February.

We fully expect that negotiations to move Build Back Better forward will resume in February.

And it is deeply important to note that many of the provisions within Build Back Better still have support from members of Congress, including Sen, Manchin: child care, universal pre-k, clean energy incentives, and, health care, to name some of the most important.

The final bill may be significantly different from what the House passed in November, but it will still be transformative, even if it is smaller in scope. Any one of the priorities within BBB would be a huge accomplishment in of itself.  

The big question remains: Which provisions will be included?

The Child Tax Credit remains a major priority for lawmakers and the White House, and the expansions included in Build Back better could cut child poverty by 40 percent. We’ve seen important data showing the powerful effects of the monthly payments. Just recently, a study showed a correlation between cash assistance for low-income families, like the Child Tax Credit, and infants’ brain development.

In looking at policies that would do the most to cut poverty and reduce racial disparities, three stand out: the Child Tax Credit expansion (particularly ensuring that families with little or no income can claim the full value of the credit); housing assistance; and closing the Medicaid gap to provide health coverage for the two million low-income individuals (60% of whom are people of color) in states that refused to take up the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

And then, not to be ignored, there are the clean energy incentives. Build Back Better would represent the largest investment to address the climate crisis that our country has ever seen, and Sen. Manchin himself is largely supportive of these provisions.

Let’s not forget why we’ve been spending months pushing for this legislation. Build Back Better is not about economic stimulus or temporarily responding to COVID—it’s about addressing many of the long-term structural problems that existed long before COVID and were only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Our champions on the Hill and in the White House are continuing to press forward on this legislation. We need your help to get the strongest possible bill across the finish line.

Contact your senators today and urge them to pass a Build Back Better bill that addresses the climate crisis, continues the expanded Child Tax Credit without a work requirement, and invests in those programs that will do the most to reduce poverty and racial disparities.

Amelia Kegan

Amelia Kegan

Associate General Secretary for Policy and Advocacy

Amelia Kegan leads FCNL’s strategic legislative advocacy and organizing work.