Schumer says Build Back Better will be delayed
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday acknowledged that talks between President Biden and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will continue, a clear signal that Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending plan will not pass this year.
“The president requested more time to continue his negotiations, and so we will keep working with him, hand in hand, to bring this bill over the finish line and deliver on these much-needed provisions,” Schumer said in remarks on the floor. He he did not provide any clear timeline for when the more than 2,000-page bill might eventually come to the floor.
The subtext of Schumer’s statement was that Congress will adjourn for the year without a Senate vote on the Build Back Better Act, despite his efforts to get the bill passed by Christmas.
Democratic senators say that the Senate parliamentarian also has to finish meeting with both sides to advise on whether the components of the bill meet the Senate’s stringent Byrd rule.
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Finance Committee, two panels that have broad jurisdiction, have yet to hold bipartisan staff meetings with the parliamentarian, sources say.
Friday is expected to be the Senate’s last day in session this year and Schumer is working on a deal with Senate conservatives to move a batch of Biden’s stalled nominees before the weekend.
Schumer indicated that a blockade of Biden’s mostly noncontroversial nominees is the main thing keeping the Senate in town.
“One hundred and fifty of President Biden’s nominees are stalled by a handful of Republican senators, who have hijacked the rules of the Senate for no other reason than obstruction for its own sake,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that most Republicans are eager to get out of town and are glad that Build Back Better didn’t pass this year.
“They are in a good mood about going home, I can tell you that,” he said.
Schumer’s remarks about the state of the Build Back Better bill followed a statement released Thursday evening by Biden providing an update on his talks with Manchin.
Biden said that Manchin “reiterated his support for Build Back Better funding at the level of the framework I announced in September,” referring to the $1.75 trillion framework released in the fall.
Biden advised that his talks with Manchin will stretch at least into next week, leaving Congress no time to pass the bill before Christmas.
“That work will continue next week. It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote,” he said.
The president also called on Democrats to make a push to pass voting rights legislation as soon as possible.
“We must also press forward on voting rights legislation, and make progress on this as quickly as possible. I had a productive conversation today with several Senators about how we can get this vital legislation passed. Our democracy is at stake,” he said in his statement.
Schumer on Friday affirmed the shift in priorities to voting rights legislation after Manchin objected to including a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit in the Build Back Better Act.
He noted that Senate Democrats would meet with Marty Paone, a former secretary of the Democratic conference and parliamentary expert, to discuss a rules change to allow Democrats to pass voting rights legislation with a simple-majority vote.
Manchin and centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), however, have already ruled out changing the filibuster to pass a voting rights bill.
“I continue to have detailed discussions with many of my colleagues about how we’re going to reach our goal of passing voting rights to ensure it takes effect before Americans return to the polls in the next election,” Schumer said.
Senate Democrats say they will turn their focus on voting rights legislation while the Build Back Better bill remains stalled because of Manchin’s objections.
“Joe is keeping an open mind and he’s looking to next year, so I am very much focused on the need to get voter protection legislation done because of the hundreds and hundreds of bills that are being contemplated in state legislatures across the country,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), referring to state laws being debated around the country to tighten rules for voter access.
At least 19 states have already passed laws to limit voting by mail.
Democratic senators said Manchin’s complaints with Biden’s climate and social spending bill strike at the heart of the legislation and raise serious questions about whether it can pass at all.
Manchin is insisting that the expanded child tax credit be extended for a full 10 years if it’s included in the Build Back Better bill. He wants lawmakers to acknowledge what he thinks is the true cost of the provision because he suspects Congress will be under heavy pressure to extend the enhanced tax credit in future years.
Manchin believes the official Congressional Budget Office score for the bill shouldn’t underrepresent the true cost of the bill, buying into arguments from Republicans who say that Build Back Better would really cost $4.9 trillion over 10 years if all of its provisions are extended.
A 10-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, which provides $3,000 per child and $3,600 per child under 6, would cost an estimated $1.5 trillion.
But Manchin also wants to limit the entire cost of the bill to $1.75 trillion, which means there would be little room for anything else if Build Back Better included a 10-year expanded child tax credit.
The enhanced child tax credit was a key piece of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March and which Manchin supported.