House

Pelosi aiming to pass $2T social spending bill before Christmas

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted Wednesday that both chambers of Congress will pass the $2 trillion expansion of social benefits and climate programs — a massive package at the heart of President Biden’s domestic agenda — before Christmas.

“We feel very confident about what is in Build Back Better,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “We know what some possibilities are, and it would be my hope that we would have this bill done before the Christmas vacation.”

That same bullish timetable is also being trumpeted across the Capitol by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is scrambling to rally his party’s centrist holdouts behind the enormous spending bill, which features a host of Democratic economic and climate priorities.

But it’s an ambitious deadline, largely because of the continued reluctance of Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a moderate Democrat from a deep-red state, to back the package — at least publicly. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event Tuesday, Manchin amplified his previous concerns about the bill’s potential effects on rising inflation, warning that “the unknown we are facing today is much greater than … this aspiration bill.”

Manchin’s resistance has led many Democrats to predict that party leaders will be forced to kick the debate into next year.

Further complicating the Christmas deadline has been a packed calendar in the Senate, where Schumer is racing to pass a defense authorization bill and raise the debt ceiling to prevent an unprecedented government default. The House on Tuesday night sent those bills over to the upper chamber, but GOP resistance, combined with the Senate’s arcane rules, could push both debates into next week.

Still, Pelosi is already set to keep the House in session beyond Friday, when the chamber is scheduled to start the recess, in order to adopt a Senate-passed debt ceiling increase. And on Wednesday she teased the idea that she’d keep lawmakers in Washington even longer to finalize Build Back Better before Dec. 25.

Asked if Democratic leaders are prepared to call the House back to Washington in the event that the Senate is able to pass the package, she suggested that no one is leaving.

“Where are they going that we’re calling them back?” she asked. “Hopefully we’ll have this done before then.”

Although the Build Back Better Act lacks the same urgency as the defense and debt ceiling bills, it contains certain provisions that would extend soon-to-expire benefits, including a popular child tax credit that was adopted in March as part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, joined Pelosi in predicting the Build Back Better Act will pass before that deadline, precluding the need for Congress to step in with a temporary extension. But if debate on the larger package is pushed into January, he said, Democrats would intervene to prevent the child tax cut from expiring.

“House Democrats will not allow this tax credit to expire,” he said. “And I don’t believe that the Senate will either.” 

Tags Build Back Better Charles Schumer Debt limit Hakeem Jeffries Joe Biden Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi

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