Biden uses State of the Union to rebrand dead Build Back Better plan

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President Biden used the State of the Union to attempt to rebrand his Build Back Better domestic agenda, which died in the Senate last year.

Biden campaigned on and spent the first year of his presidency using the term Build Back Better to describe his comprehensive social spending bill. However, opposition from Republicans and the centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., helped kill the legislation that had passed in the House last fall.

President Biden looks skyward, while Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applaud.
President Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on March 1. (Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters)

While Biden touted many of the provisions he hoped to include in the plan and called on Congress to pass them, he did not use the phrase Build Back Better once in his speech, which lasted roughly an hour.

Instead, Biden repeatedly referred to “my plan,” as well as referring to his strategy to fight inflation as “building a better America.”

Prior to the speech, the White House announced that Biden would be traveling to Wisconsin on Wednesday to “deliver remarks on Building a Better America and how the bipartisan infrastructure law delivers for the American people by rebuilding roads and bridges and creating good-paying, union jobs.”

The president earned chants of “USA” from the assembled lawmakers, for stating that reliance on foreign supply chains could be undercut by making more products in the United States.

“Economists call it ‘increasing the productive capacity of our economy,’” Biden said as the cheers subsided. “I call it building a better America.”

A sign saying Build Back Better is set in front of the Capitol building.
In December last year, a Build Back Better poster is in place before a news conference in front of the Capitol. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

The pivot is intentional, as the White House hopes to appeal to Manchin by touting how the package will reduce the federal deficit and fight inflation.

“That’s music to my ears,” Manchin told NBC News last month, when asked about Democrats focusing on reducing the deficit. “Deficit reduction, inflation, being fiscally responsible — sounds like something we should be talking about!”

Biden referred to several parts of Build Back Better on Tuesday, including his call to cut the price of prescription drugs, a cost-saving strategy that has been a campaign promise of Democrats for years. During that portion, Biden highlighted the case of one 13-year-old, Joshua Davis, a diabetic whose family is affected by the high cost of insulin.

One of the features of Biden’s plan would be to cap the co-payment for insulin at $35 a month for those with insurance, although the president appeared to misrepresent his position Tuesday by saying it would cut the cost for everyone.

Biden also touted climate provisions, including investments and tax credits to weatherize homes and businesses. He also promised to double the nation’s clean energy production and lower the price of electric vehicles. The president has also sought to reduce the cost of child care, provide universal pre-K for all children aged 3 and 4 and provide long-term, in-home care for older Americans and those with disabilities.

Additionally, the president called for a mandatory minimum tax rate for corporations and the closing of loopholes that allow some businesses and wealthy Americans to pay relatively little in taxes.

Despite Biden’s best efforts, Manchin appeared unmoved, telling reporters afterward “Nothing's changed” and "That was a little bit far.”

"They just can't help themselves,” joked the West Virginia Democrat, who spent the speech sitting with Republicans in an attempt, according to his office, to show the American people that bipartisanship was “alive and well.”