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‘Build Back Better’ Has Uncertain Future; Vaccine Mandate Faces Legal Setback

SVP Government Affairs Tim Tarpley
Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel

Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

Sen. Joe Manchin, who appears to be in the driver’s seat in regard to the future of the “Build Back Better” package, has continued to express concerns with the expedited timeline that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for passage of the legislation. The Senate is facing a December 25 deadline for expiration of the child-care tax credit, and the prospect of letting the package linger into 2022 certainly threatens the ability to ultimately pass the bill. 

This week, Sen. Manchin reminded his colleagues that he has long called for a “strategic pause” on the economic package due to concerns over inflation and because of the long-term costs of the proposed social and climate policies. Manchin made it clear that his view hasn’t changed, and his vote is critical for Democrats to pass legislation that isn’t expected to get any support from Republicans. “We have to make sure we get this right,” he said at a Wall Street Journal event. “We can’t just continue to flood the market as we’re doing.”  

Unless Sen. Manchin changes this view, Senate Democrats have few options. They could try and entice a Republican like Sen. Mitch Romney or others to cross party lines and vote for passage, but that prospect seems very unlikely. The only other option is to continue to pressure Sen. Manchin and make concessions to bring his vote. Currently, all Senate committee chairs have been asked by their leadership to provide new language within their jurisdiction with an aim to be ready to vote by Christmas break. We will likely know more next week as this language is finalized and plans become clearer. 

President Biden’s Vaccine Mandates Face Another Legal Setback

A federal judge in Georgia has blocked the Biden Administration from enforcing a rule requiring federal contractors to be fully vaccinated in January. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker, in Augusta, GA, issued a stay to bar enforcement of the mandate nationwide Tuesday. The order came in response to a lawsuit from several contractors and seven states — Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia — but it would apply nationwide. 

Baker found that the states are likely to succeed in their claim that President Biden exceeded authorization from Congress when he issued the requirement in September.

“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe, However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities,” he wrote.

This ruling comes as the legal future of the larger 100-plus employer mandate continues to hang in the balance, with further legal rulings expected in the coming weeks. Many of the legal arguments made in this case are similar to those that have come up in the larger employer mandate, so it may be indicative of the way things are headed. 

Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.


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