Democrats' economic ambitions got steadily whittled down over months of intraparty negotiations.

President Joe Biden last year asked Congress to pass more than $4 trillion worth of infrastructure and economic proposals. Progressive Democrats sought to bump that up to $6 trillion. Now Democrats will be lucky to pass just a fraction of that before the midterm elections this fall.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., has tentatively agreed to support a narrow, health care-focused version of Democrats’ original “Build Back Better” package containing just a two-year extension of expanded health insurance subsidies costing roughly $40 billion and a prescription pricing package that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will reduce deficits by nearly $300 billion.

(All spending, revenue and deficit reduction figures mentioned in this story reflect estimates over the 10-year budget window.)

If Democrats successfully advance the slimmed-down bill, it will represent barely a tenth of Biden’s original economic vision when combined with $550 billion in new infrastructure spending Congress enacted last year. With offsets in the infrastructure package, the roughly $600 billion spending expansion in both bills would be nearly fully paid-for — a far cry from the trillions in unoffset spending sought by progressives.

Manchin said he’s willing to keep negotiating on climate and tax provisions left out of the upcoming package and perhaps agree to something if inflation cools. But procedural and political obstacles make that a tall order.

Stay up to date with us


Get weekly Canon roundups straight to your inbox