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Opinion Make a deal with Manchin on Build Back Better

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Capitol Hill in D.C. on March 3. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Sen. Joe Manchin III is floating yet another idea to salvage the Build Back Better package. The Democrat from West Virginia wants to hike taxes on the rich and some corporations and then split the money between debt reduction and addressing climate change. In other words, he wants a smaller package than the $1.75 trillion deal Democratic leaders tried to make happen last year. Notice he also doesn’t mention President Biden’s key social priorities: universal pre-kindergarten, expanded child care and at least another year of the child tax credit.

It’s understandable why many of his fellow Democrats are scoffing. Mr. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are the two holdouts who have prevented this major legislation from passing for months. They have brought a lot of ridicule on their party and Mr. Biden for failing to get this done while Democrats hold a slim majority in Congress.

But it’s time to set the grudges aside and engage with Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema again. Democrats still have one last chance to enact fairer tax policy, lower drug prices and make a major down payment on America’s energy future. It’s far better to take this deal than to do nothing. We applaud Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for signaling an openness to Mr. Manchin’s approach.

Mr. Manchin’s general framework makes sense: Focus on how much money can be raised from taxes on high earners and some corporations, along with savings from allowing the government to do some negotiation of drug prices. Then discuss how to use that revenue. He wants to put some of the money toward debt reduction, which would be an encouraging gesture from Democrats that they are not ignoring the more than $23 trillion in debt held by the public. Even after doing that, there would still be money left over for a comprehensive energy package that beefs up clean energy while also permitting domestic energy exploration — a key issue as the United States and European Union look for ways to break from Russian oil and gas.

We would like to see at least another year of the child tax credit, which lifted millions of kids out of poverty last year and made it easier for their families to deal with the rising costs of food, gas, electricity and rent. Already this year, 3.7 million more children are living in poverty, largely due to the expiration of the credit. Mr. Manchin calls inflation America’s “No. 1 enemy,” and low-income families are hit hardest by rising prices.

Now is the time for compromise. There’s a united resolve in Congress to thwart Russia’s unjust war against Ukraine. Let Democrats show the world that they are also capable of unity on a substantial domestic bill, too.

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Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Opinion Editor David Shipley; Deputy Opinion Editor Karen Tumulty; Associate Opinion Editor Stephen Stromberg (national politics and policy, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care); Lee Hockstader (European affairs, based in Paris); David E. Hoffman (global public health); James Hohmann (domestic policy and electoral politics, including the White House, Congress and governors); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Associate Editor Ruth Marcus; and Molly Roberts (technology and society).