Durbin: 'I don't know' if Manchin will vote for Build Back Better

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois told Yahoo News, “I don’t know,” whether Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., will provide the crucial 50th vote for Build Back Better, President Biden’s signature budget bill, on Saturday.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said when asked if the Senate would muster the votes to pass the hotly contested legislation. “First, we have to get it through the parliamentarian’s office and through 50 Democratic senators.”

The parliamentarian is the person who would rule on whether all the provisions of the bill are appropriate to be passed within the budget reconciliation process, which allows a simple majority to pass legislation without threat of a filibuster from the minority.

Manchin, the centrist from a fossil fuel-heavy state whose opposition to many elements of the proposal has already forced their removal, still hasn’t publicly committed to back the stripped-down bill.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Durbin is in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of an 18-member Senate delegation to support the U.S.’s effort to obtain a strong global agreement to reduce the severity of climate change at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

“Well, I think that’s why we need to pass the reconciliation bill, Build Back Better,” Durbin said, when asked by Yahoo News what he thought of the House of Representatives’ vote late Friday night to pass an infrastructure investment bill as one key component of Biden’s domestic agenda — despite the opposition of some progressives, who fear the bipartisan bill’s climate change impact won’t be very beneficial.

“It does substantially more, in different areas, compliments [the infrastructure law] very well,” Durbin said.

But when asked whether Manchin would support Build Back Better and it would pass the Senate, Durbin demurred.

Asked if failure to pass the central piece of Biden’s climate agenda would undermine the Biden administration in Glasgow, Durbin implicitly agreed — in contrast to special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, who maintains, despite modeling that suggests otherwise, that the U.S. is on track to meet Biden’s pledge of a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

“We should deliver, once promised,” Durbin said. “But it isn’t in our hands completely. It’s up to 50 members.”

Joe Manchin, wearing a face mask, gestures with his hand from an elevator.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks to reporters as he boards an elevator at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Durbin also rebuffed the suggestion that Manchin could somehow be forced to fall in line.

“That’s not how the Senate works,” he said. “Each member has the power to slow down the train, and some have the power to stop it. And you realize that the person who just angered you today, you need tomorrow to pass something else.”

The bottom line, according to Durbin, is that with an evenly divided Senate, every Democrat must be appeased.

“When you’re that close, 50-50, every vote counts, every senator counts,” he said.


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