Jan 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Splitting up Biden's Build Back Better package could save Dems' climate agenda

Illustration of Biden holding Earth.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photo: Win McNamee

President Biden's attempt to salvage his faltering clean energy and social spending plan could bring new efforts to revive climate-related measures separately or within a slimmed-down package.

Driving the news: Biden on Wednesday publicly endorsed the prospect of splitting up the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan. Biden suggested there's agreement possible on the roughly $550 billion in climate and provisions.

Why it matters: Congressional action is likely needed to keep Biden's climate goals — notably a 50% cut in economy-wide emissions by 2030 — within reach.

Catch up fast: "It’s clear to me that we’re going to have to probably break it up," Biden said at a press conference.

  • "I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, and come back and fight for the rest later," he said, citing barriers to the child tax credit extension and community college aid.
  • Biden needs support from every Senate Democrat for Build Back Better, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposes the package. Manchin, however, has suggested a deal on climate provisions is possible.

Reality check: Attempting to split up the plan would bring big political hurdles of its own, and force difficult choices that jettison priorities of the wider liberal coalition.

  • And even the energy provisions lack consensus, with Manchin — whose state is a major coal and gas producer — cool to ideas like a fee on methane emissions.

What's next: The White House hopes to renew negotiations with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Biden's chief of staff Ron Klain told the Wall Street Journal

Go deeper: Highlights from Biden's marathon 2-hour press conference

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