Is President Biden’s Climate Agenda Toast?

Joel B. Stronberg
10 min readJan 5, 2022

What Do You Know, Joe?


The Manchin saga continues. In Part 1 of this occasional series, I discussed the aftermath of Manchin’s abrupt announcement on Fox Sunday News a week before Christmas that he would not be voting in favor of President Biden’s Build Back Better act (BBB) — or what was left of it. He’d already whacked away at the original $3.5 trillion — reducing it by half.

The announcement unleashed a torrent of condemnation from congressional Democrats and some White House staff. Things have calmed. Attention is now being directed towards the possibility of a smaller and more focused package. Think of it as going from BBB to bbb.

Biden and the Democrats have a lot riding on the Build Back Better act. Eighty percent of the President’s once-in-a-generation investments in climate, health-care, jobs training, child care, universal pre-kindergarten, etc., are in the one bill.

There’s a lot of anger towards Manchin that’s unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. Progressive Democrats feel betrayed after agreeing to deal separately with the bipartisan infrastructure and BBB bills.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez and other House progressives had warned that treating the bills separately would only make the passage of the BBB more difficult. Representative Jayapal (D-WA), who chairs the 100-member Cong-ressional Progressive Caucus, issued a press release following Manchin’s Fox News announcement:

Today, Senator Manchin has betrayed his commitment not only to the President and Democrats in Congress but most importantly, to the American people. He routinely touts that he is a man of his word, but he can no longer say that. West Virginians, and the country, see clearly who he is.

They gave up the only leverage they had in return for what they believed would be relatively quick action by Senate Democrats to pass a version of the House bill.

In another time and place, a single member of Congress wouldn’t have this kind of power. The Democrats are in the Senate majority only as long as the 50 members vote in a block — giving Vice President Harris the tie-breaking vote.

Joel B. Stronberg

Stronberg is a thought leader in the climate community with over 40 years of experience covering environmental and sustainability issues as a freelancer.