Build Back Better plan still a possibility, Biden says

US president says he and Joe Manchin, who on Sunday said he would vote against the signature legislation, would 'get something done'

President Joe Biden takes questions after speaking about the US fight against Covid-19. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden sounded a cautiously optimistic tone on Tuesday that his stalled $1.75 trillion social and climate spending bill would survive in some form, two days after Joe Manchin, a senator from West Virginia, said he could not support the legislation.

“I want to get things done. I still think there's a possibility of getting Build Back Better done,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House.

“Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done.”

After months of negotiations with various factions in the Democratic Party, Mr Manchin on Sunday appeared on Fox News and said he would not support Mr Biden's Build Back Better plans.

The legislation includes money to boost America's social services and strengthen its frayed safety nets, as well as funds aimed at reducing the effects of climate change.

In a statement explaining his reasons for rejecting the legislation, Mr Manchin highlighted the “staggering” debt the US already has accumulated, along with concerns about inflation.

Mr Manchin is a Democratic senator from the conservative, coal-mining state of West Virginia. He wields outsize influence in an evenly divided Senate and has argued that the legislation does not do enough for his constituents.

But on Tuesday, America’s biggest coal mining union called on Mr Manchin to reconsider his opposition to the bill.

The legislation includes several provisions that would aid coal workers, including the extension of a fee that helps fund benefits for workers suffering from black lung and tax incentives that would encourage manufactures to build facilities in coal fields and employ out-of-work miners, said Cecil Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America International.

For the first time, the bill would also penalise employers that deny workers their rights to form a union, Mr Roberts said.

“We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities,” Mr Roberts said.

Josh Sword, president of West Virginia AFL-CIO, also asked Mr Manchin to continue negotiating with Mr Biden on the bill because it would help the state’s workers and their families.

Mr Manchin also said on Sunday that his opposition to the legislation was in part due to concerns that it would speed up a transition away from fossil fuels that would threaten the reliability of the electric grid and make the US more dependent on foreign supply chains.

Supporters of the legislation have pushed back against those concerns.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: December 21, 2021, 9:04 PM