Schumer wants deal on details of spending package ‘within a matter of days’
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is trying to hit the gas after Democrats faced a significant setback last week over President Biden’s agenda, failing to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill or get a deal on a sweeping social spending package.
Schumer, in a letter to the Senate Democratic caucus, reiterated on Monday that he views the end of October as the deadline for getting both bills to Biden, while also urging Democrats to quickly coalesce behind the details of the larger spending bill.
“It is crucial that the House, Senate and President come to a final agreement on the details of the Build Back Better Act as soon as possible, preferably within a matter of days, not weeks,” Schumer wrote in the letter, noting that Democrats would need time after that to draft the legislation and get it cleared by the Senate parliamentarian.
“I will be working with the Speaker and the President – and encourage all of you to help us – to reach that agreement expeditiously,” he added.
Schumer’s letter comes amid deep divisions between not only moderates and progressives but the House and Senate about both the size and specifics of the spending package.
The House shelved its plans on Friday to vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, with progressives warning that they would vote down the measure without an agreement on the separate reconciliation legislation, which is expected to carry Democratic priorities including combating climate change, expanding Medicare, child care and education benefits and changes to the 2017 GOP tax bill.
The decision to postpone the vote sparked fierce outrage from moderates in both chambers, who wanted to pass the bill quickly. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a group of House moderates initially agreed that the Senate bill would get a vote by Sept. 27. The vote was then pushed to Thursday, and then Friday, before being delayed altogether.
Democratic leadership and the White House had been hoping to get Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to agree to a framework for the reconciliation bill in order to try to entice the progressives into voting for the Senate’s bipartisan bill but weren’t able to reach an agreement.
Both Sinema and Manchin have said they can’t support a $3.5 trillion bill and Manchin has put his top line at $1.5 trillion. Though progressives have argued that is too low, they’ve also opened the door to going below $3.5 trillion, setting the stage for painful negotiations as Democrats try to figure out what to prioritize in their bill.
Because Democrats are passing the spending bill under reconciliation, they can bypass the filibuster in the Senate but need total unity from all 50 of their members in order to clear the bill without GOP help.
Schumer, in his letter, urged Democrats to unify behind a plan.
“We can get this done, together, if we put aside our differences and find the common ground within our party. It will require sacrifice,” Schumer wrote.
“Not every member will get everything he or she wanted. But at the end of the day, we will pass legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of the American people. I believe we are going to do just that in the month of October,” he added.