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Biden economic aide: There's 'broad support' for 4 parts of stalled Build Back Better

·Senior Producer and Writer
·4-min read

During his marathon press conference this week, President Joe Biden acknowledged the reality of the stalemate on Capitol Hill and announced that he would change tactics on his signature Build Back Better legislation and try to pass it in pieces.

“I’m confident we can get pieces — big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law” he told the assembled reporters.

Later during the event, the president highlighted two areas in particular: $500 billion around energy and climate change as well as universal preschool for children.

“Joe Manchin strongly supports” these ideas, Biden said of the Democratic West Virginia senator who opposes Build Back Better in its entirety.

During an interview Thursday with Yahoo Finance Live, Biden’s top economic aide added a few more provisions to the mix that might be able to become law in 2022.

“The good news is that broadly across Democrats and the American people, there is broad support” for 4 different areas, said Brian Deese, the White House National Economic Council Director.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Brian Deese, an economic and political advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden, peeks out of the room where a bipartisan group of Senators and White House officials are holding negotiations over the Biden administrations proposed infrastructure plan at the U.S. Capitol on June 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. After initial negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans fell through a new bi partisan group of Senators came together with the hopes of reaching a deal for a much need infrastructure spending plan. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Brian Deese during a break in negotiations with Senators over the Biden administration's proposed infrastructure plan in June. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

He contends that money for prescription drugs, health-care, and childcare, as well as investments in clean energy are all on the table.

Deese has been closely involved in the Build Back Better negotiations for months, often traveling to Capitol Hill to represent the White House as lawmakers have struggled for months to reach a deal.

Climate ‘is a priority’

Any piecemeal approach in the months ahead will almost surely need to pass the Senate using the reconciliation process, which can be done with only Democratic votes. That would mean continued outsized roles for Sens. Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Both the president and Deese agree that the energy and climate provisions could pass muster with Manchin, chair of the Senate’s Energy Committee.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 25: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (R) and Director of National Economic Council Brian Deese (L) talk after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at the U.S. Capitol October 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats continue to work on their differences on the key policy priorities in the Biden administration's infrastructure and social spending package. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (R) and Brian Deese (L) talk after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in October. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The “need for investing in clean energy, having a more resilient energy system here in the United States [which] produces cheaper, zero carbon energy here in the United States is a priority” Deese says.

The Biden plan’s climate provisions were already scaled back in October when lawmakers — largely at Manchin’s behest — removed the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would have penalized utility companies which didn't move fast enough to adopt clean energy.

Future climate change efforts will be focused around tax credits to spur the energy sector to produce more clean energy, amid other provisions.

'Common areas' of 'common sense'

When it comes to childcare, the Build Back Better framework includes money for universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. It also includes funds for child care for even younger children, in order to lessen the burden on working parents. During his press conference, Biden focused on preschool provisions, though Deese seemed to say that money for childcare was still on the table.

Deese also predicted that two other areas “where we can find agreement” would be on prescription drugs and healthcare costs.

The prescription drug provisions in the framework would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for high-cost prescription drugs, something advocates have long pushed for. The prescription drug plans also would add price controls and penalties if, for example, a drug companies were to increase their prices faster than inflation.

On heath-care costs, Biden and his team's main efforts have been to reduce Obamacare premiums. Another idea is to provide tax credits to lower-income Americans to help more people get coverage.

“All of those areas are areas where Democrats agree and the American people agree” said Deese, adding “they are common sense.”

The expanded Child Tax Credit was largely unmentioned by both Biden and Deese. It was to be a signature Biden accomplishment but expired at the start of 2022 and appears to be unlikely to be revived anytime soon in the face of Manchin’s opposition.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Biden responded to a question about the fate of the expanded Child Tax Credit by saying it was one of the “big components that I feel strongly about that I’m not sure I can get in the package.”

Deese concurred Thursday saying it's "gonna be tough” to get that provision back, even with Biden and the White House supporting it strongly.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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