Build Back Better remains deadlocked as Manchin insists negotiations at a standstill

President Joe Biden during a visit to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory facility in Colorado in September 2021. Image: NREL.

US President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which contains a plethora of policy mechanisms in support of solar and energy storage, would appear to still be at a deadlock after Democrat Senator Joe Manchin said there were “no negotiations going on”.

However the Biden administration has insisted the bill remains one of its top priorities and that conversations with senators and other representatives were continuing.

With the US Senate convening earlier this week following a festive break, attention has once again centred on the prospects for President Biden’s Build Back Better Act which, amongst other green initiatives, includes measures to extend the solar investment tax credit to 10 years and re-introduce a production tax credit for utility-scale solar farms.

The US$1.75 trillion spending package has thus far been unable to pass, however, with two Senate Democrats – Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – refusing to support it citing a range of concerns. Manchin in particular has taken aim at renewable energy measures in the bill, claiming they would “risk the reliability” of the US power grid.

With Biden needing a majority in the Senate for the act to pass, Manchin and Sinema’s respective votes are vital.

While Manchin was suggested to have spoken to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer over the break, the West Virginian told reporters yesterday (4 January) that there were “no negotiations going on” between him and the administration leadership, suggesting there remains some distance to be travailed before any prospective agreement.

There have too been suggestions, expressed by Democrat Senator Dick Durbin, that Build Back Better had taken a backseat for the time being, with the leadership instead focusing on voter rights reforms.

But in a press briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the act remained a priority, adding that conversations between the president and members of his team are having with a “range of senators who are involved in this process” are continuing.

Psaki also insisted that legislative ambitions elsewhere, which could also include an audacious bid to remove the filibuster from the Senate process, does not “change our commitment to Build Back Better”.

Despite the lack of progress made in recent weeks – prior to Manchin’s assertions, it was hoped Build Back Better would pass prior to the new year – many in the PV industry remain hopeful that the bill will proceed in some way shape or form. US-based solar manufacturers told PV Tech Premium late last year how the bill should be a “national priority” given its potential to allow the country’s upstream solar sector to “move rapidly”.