Crippling Inflation Could Kill Joe Biden's Build Back Better Bill

President Joe Biden's proposed Build Back Better Act could be at risk amid concern Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) won't back the bill with inflation already at its highest level in 30 years.

The Consumer Price Index for October recorded a 6.2 percent increase year on year in figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday, with notable rises in the price of food and energy.

Manchin, whose vote is crucial in passing the bill through the budget reconciliation process, has previously suggested he wouldn't support a major spending bill that might exacerbate inflation.

The senator, who is considered a moderate or conservative Democrat, tweeted about inflation on Wednesday.

"By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not 'transitory' and is instead getting worse," Manchin wrote.

"From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day."

Manchin's recent comments may be a cause of concern for the White House in light of a statement he issued on November 1 that linked an expansion of social spending with rising inflation.

"Throughout the last three months, I have been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our nearly $29 trillion in national debt that no one else seems to care about. Nor will I support a package that risks hurting American families suffering from historic inflation," the statement said.

By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not “transitory” and is instead getting worse. From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) November 10, 2021

Manchin added that he wouldn't "support a multitrillion-dollar bill without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on our economy and existing government programs."

The original price tag for the Build Back Better Act was $3.5 trillion, but this was reduced to $1.75 trillion in large part because of opposition from Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Democrats are aiming to pass the bill without Republican support, but this will require all Senate Democrats to support the final measure, making Manchin's position crucial.

However, Democrats who support the bill say experts believe it won't worsen long-term inflation and any rise will be temporary. They hope to offset inflation by taxes on the richest Americans.

President Biden made the same point in a statement issued on Wednesday that addressed the inflation rate.

"17 Nobel Prize winners in economics have said that my plan will 'ease inflationary pressures,'" Biden's statement said. "And my plan does this without raising taxes on those making less than $400,000 or adding to the federal debt, by requiring the wealthiest and big corporations to start to pay their fair share in taxes."

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will help ease inflationary pressures, lowering costs for working families.pic.twitter.com/FOcchsNWgN

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 8, 2021

Biden also acknowledged that current inflation levels are a problem.

"Inflation hurts Americans pocketbooks, and reversing this trend is a top priority for me," he said.

Speaking at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday, Biden said people "remain unsettled about the economy" amid high prices and the administration was "tracking these issues and trying to figure out how to tackle them head on."

Axios reported on Wednesday that Manchin may delay the Build Back Better Act until next year given the limited number of legislative days left in 2021 and his concerns about inflation.

If the bill gets put back further, it could make reaching a deal more difficult.

Moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party have been in conflict over the bill and the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has now passed both the House and Senate. Manchin voted in favor of that bill.

Progressives had tried to link the passage of the bipartisan bill with progress on Build Back Better and House Democrats finally passed the bipartisan legislation on November 5 while also voting on a procedural motion to advance the reconciliation bill.

Biden will sign the bill at a White House ceremony on Monday and has also said the bipartisan infrastructure bill would have a positive effect on inflation. In a tweet on Sunday, he said: "The bipartisan infrastructure deal will help ease inflationary pressures, lowering costs for working families."

While Biden has sought to frame the Build Back Better Act as a cure to inflationary ills, if Manchin isn't convinced then the bill could be dead on its arrival in the Senate.

Biden Speaks at the Port of Baltimore
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the recently passed $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act at the Port of Baltimore on November 10, 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland. Inflation could endanger the passage of the Build Back Better Act. Drew Angerer/Getty Images