MN Rep. Phillips hopeful ‘build back better’ will still pass

A man sits in a U.S. Congress meeting room, listening.
Rep. Dean Phillips questions witnesses during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in Washington. Phillips said he hopes West Virginia. Sen. Joe Manchin will come back to the negotiating table and that he is confident the legislation will pass in the new year.
Kevin Dietsch-Pool | Getty Images 2020

When West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said over the weekend he could not vote for President Joe Biden’s nearly $2 trillion “build back better” plan, many Minnesota Democrats reacted with anger and frustration.

But 3rd District Rep. Dean Phillips said he thinks the social spending plan will still pass in the Senate sometime in the new year.

“I believe it’s the end of the beginning,” Phillips said in an interview Monday. “It’s not the beginning of the end.”

Phillips’ optimism ran counter to what other Democrats in Minnesota’s congressional delegation were saying.

Sen. Tina Smith said in a statement Sunday that Manchin was ”dangerously wrong” to oppose the president’s signature piece of legislation and that his “reckless posture” would lead to “higher energy prices, fewer jobs, and a back seat to those that take action and lead on technology and innovation.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minneapolis and the rest of Minnesota’s 5th district tweeted of Manchin: “This has nothing to do with his constituents. This is about the corruption and self-interest of a coal baron.”

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Phillips, on the other hand, called Manchin “an honorable man,” and said that more negotiating, not demonizing Manchin, will lead to a successful outcome for Democrats.

“It starts with — stop the vitriol and the condemnation,” Phillips said. “Get through the holidays where I hope people take a breath and spend some time with loved ones, reflect at how darn lucky we still are to live in this country at this time with the many blessings we have despite our great challenges and a terrible two years for our country. And, return to Washington in January with the intention to get this done.”

Because control of the Senate is split between parties, Biden could not afford to lose even one Democratic vote for his plan to expand pre-kindergarten programs and the child tax credit, increase health and child care offerings and take steps to combat climate change. Even the White House said Manchin’s statement Sunday that he would not vote for the bill took them by surprise.

Now is the time to find out what Manchin will agree to, Phillips said.

“This starts with sitting down, not using the press to attack one another, which to me is the biggest disease that our country faces in addition to covid is the disease of anger, ‘angertainment’ and division,” he said, adding that Biden’s plan is important to pass to keep the United States competitive with other countries, notably China.

“Is it perfect? No,” Phillps said of the Biden plan. “Is every element of it something that I support? Not necessarily. But as a comprehensive measure it is a remarkable step in the right direction and ultimately it will make America stronger, more competitive and frankly, more secure.”