Joe Manchin Says Maybe

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) dropped a flaming bag of poop on the doorstep of the Democratic party by saying he would not vote President Biden's "Build Back Better" social spending bill right before the Christmas break, but Manchin has reportedly returned to the negotiating table with some actual demands.

According to Axios, Manchin is dangling his support for the spending package if the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) is removed or narrowed.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is open to reengaging on the climate and child care provisions in President Biden's Build Back Better agenda if the White House removes the enhanced child tax credit from the $1.75 trillion package — or dramatically lowers the income caps for eligible families, people familiar with the matter tell Axios. [...]

[Manchin's] belief that it could cost more than $4 trillion over 10 years extends beyond the CTC issue, and he continues to tell colleagues he’s concerned about the inflationary effects of so much government spending, Axios is told.

To my own surprise, unions in the coal mining industry called on Manchin to support the legislation after publicly announcing that he would say 'No.' In their own words, unions representing coal miners believe the legislation may be their best chance to find new jobs in the clean energy economy that is coming whether they like it or not.

It's anyone's guess if that is influencing Manchin now, but I can't think of a more obvious reason why he would change his mind.

If Democrats face a choice between eliminating or narrowing eligibility for the expanded child tax credit, I believe they should narrow it. The expanded credit that recently expired is available to families making up to $400,000 per year and -- let's face it -- families making that much money aren't exactly hurting. If the expanded CTC is billed and adverited as an anti-poverty program, eligibility could be dramatically reduced and still cover every child living in or close to poverty.

It's at least slightly baffling to me that Manchin would float the idea of entirely eliminating the expanded tax credit given that virtually every family in West Virginia qualifies for it.