Democrats are quietly trying to meet a huge Manchin demand to get behind Biden’s economic agenda. There’s no guarantee it will work.

  • Democrats are still laboring to get Manchin’s vote and revive Biden’s economic agenda.
  • They’re trying to assuage his concerns and holding hearings alongside Republicans, a big demand of his.
  • But there’s no guarantee it will work and he could be souring on other parts of the bill.

Senate Democrats are quietly laboring to address a big demand from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democratic holdout that sank the centerpiece bill carrying President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.

In recent days, Democrats across four committees scheduled hearings on major planks of the shelved social and climate spending legislation such as childcare, clean energy, and in-home care for the elderly. On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) panel held a hearing on childcare and universal pre-K.

“Let’s lower child care costs for as many working parents as we can,” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said at the HELP hearing. “Let’s offer parents more options.”

Other panels holding hearings in the coming days include Senate Aging and the Senate Environment and Public Works panel. It came as Congress scheduled four days of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The Senate Finance committee had a hearing on lowering prescription drug costs last week. 

Manchin has long prized bipartisanship, urging Democrats to seek Republican votes on other parts of their agenda such as on expanding voting rights. But he was left with little to show for it last summer and ended up opposing bypassing the 60-vote threshold for Democrats to approve a set of election bills unilaterally, most recently in January.

Republicans are also lined up in opposition to Biden’s economic package. They’ve assailed its planned tax hikes on the wealthy and large companies along with its spending to transition the US away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energy sources.

That hasn’t stopped Manchin from urging Democrats to set up hearings on the House-approved Build Back Better bill. Democrats didn’t do so until now, but its not clear whether it will be enough to win his vote. Democrats can’t sidestep Republicans and approve the spending plan on their own without unanimity in the 50-50 Senate.

The conservative West Virginia Democrat has provided mixed signals about his priorities. He sketched out a slimmer bill that’s more focused on prescription drug savings, stepping up taxes on the rich, climate-related spending, and deficit-reduction that could get his vote.

But he could be souring on another big Democratic priority. Last week, he was hesitant to encourage the development of electric vehicles.