President Joseph Biden’s signature Build Back Better legislation — including provisions for health care, climate change, housing and early childhood education — is ambitious and transformational. It may also be doomed.

Democrats cannot allow intraparty squabbling to keep them from delivering on the sweeping bill, even if that sweep must be cut back.

The narrow control of Congress by the president’s party means that any hopes of passing the Build Back Better Act in the Senate go through Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has proved consistently frustrating in his wavering.

After months of negotiations, Manchin went on Fox News in December to announce he could not support the proposed legislation. Last week, he told the Wall Street Journal that any deal-making was back to square one.

“I’m hoping to talk to everybody and start with a clean sheet of paper,” Manchin said. “We’ll just be starting from scratch whenever we start.”

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Seattle Democratic representative in Congress and a key player in getting the bill passed in the House, said she is optimistic they can reach an agreement, but that time is running out.


“Sen. Manchin made a commitment to the president, and we believe that he should be able to agree to that again. That’s the work of the next four to six weeks,” she said. “We have to get it done before March 1, before the president comes to the State of the Union.”

Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has taken flak from some on the left, who argue that progressives gave away their leverage when they agreed to support a separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure spending package.

But she was right to back pragmatism then, and Democrats must continue to do so now.

Even a slimmed down Build Back Better Act could still include vital funding to reduce greenhouse emissions and fight climate change, provide health care subsidies, and improve and expand the social safety net.

It bears repeating that lost in the media narrative of Democratic infighting is the outrageous fact that Republicans refuse to be part of any solution, regardless that polls have shown that Americans widely support most provisions in the act.

There’s little incentive for the GOP to act, though, as that abdication of responsibility has proven smart politically. As they argue among themselves, Democrats have been left as the face of ineffective government, with Biden’s approval rating hitting the lowest numbers of his presidency.

It may be too late to stave off the political fallout in the midterm elections, but Democrats still have a chance to do something transformative. They are too close to falter now.