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Democrats optimistic as social spending bill heads to Senate

The Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers were optimistic on Sunday after the House passed their social spending and climate package late last week, expressing confidence that the Build Back Better Act will pass the Senate and ultimately land on President Biden’s desk.

The House passed the Democrats’ massive social spending and climate plan Friday morning in a 220-213 vote, capping off months of negotiations that were marked by internal party clashes and deliberations between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The bill — which includes investments in education, health care and combating climate change — now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to begin consideration after the Thanksgiving break. 

Brian Deese, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, expressed confidence on Sunday that the mammoth legislation will pass the upper chamber, contending that after months of negotiations, the White House has “a good understanding of where the consensus lies.”

“I expected that as we move to the Senate we’ll have a lot of momentum, we’ll work as the congressional process does, we’ll work to get a bill through the Senate. We need 50 votes, and then it will go back to the House and to the president’s desk,” Deese told “Fox News Sunday” guest host Bret Baier.

The legislation, however, will likely undergo a number of changes in the Senate before a vote is scheduled. Adjustments are expected to be made after the Senate parliamentarian completes a review of the legislation and in response to opposition from some senators to specific provisions in the bill.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) recognized the reality that the bill will likely see a number of changes as it makes it way through the chamber but said that the “reasonable people” in the caucus “can come up with a bill that is a very, very good bill that works for states like Montana and other states in the area.”

He emphasized that compromise will be needed to send the package to Biden’s desk, especially when it comes to provisions related to affordable housing, employment, and lowering prescription drug costs and health care costs.

“We don’t all see the world the same way, so let’s negotiate, and let’s come up with a bill that lowers costs for families and cuts taxes and gets things done to help move this economy forward so we can stay the premier power in the world,” Tester told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

One lawmaker who will likely force a change to the package is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has previously said he is against including paid leave in the spending bill, arguing that it should be considered outside reconciliation, which is the legislative process Democrats are using that allows the 50-50 Senate to pass the bill through a simple majority without GOP support.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Sunday, however, said Manchin “has come a long way on paid leave,” specifically showing more of an interest in learning about the proposal.

The New York Democrat told host Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that she is optimistic she can continue talking to Manchin about ways to keep the provision in the spending package.

Republicans, however, have an entirely different outlook. While the GOP is not involved in the legislative process for the Build Back Better Act because of budget reconciliation, a number of top Republicans are knocking the bill for its hefty price tag and proposals that would raise taxes to generate funding for the investments.

The legislation proposes implementing a minimum 15 percent tax rate on corporations that report more than $1 billion in profits as one way the party is planning to finance the bill’s investments. Biden has consistently said the bill will be fully paid for, though a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office paints a different picture.

The congressional scorekeeper revealed in an assessment on Thursday that when including the bill’s tax credits in the top-line number, the price tag jumps to roughly $2.4 million, which is significantly higher than the administration’s initial $1.75 trillion framework.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on Sunday dismissed the claim by Democrats that the package will be fully paid for, telling co-host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “nobody buys that.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is also rejecting the Democrats’ plan for funding the package.

During an interview with John Catsimatidis on WABC 770 AM, Johnson appeared to refer to the provisions in the spending package as “giveaway programs,” arguing that the party can get funding for the investments only from the middle class “because that’s where the money is,” despite their plans to tax wealthy corporations.

“They don’t really bear the brunt of the tax increase,” Johnson said. “They just pass it along to consumers and to their employees in lower wages and benefits. So, yeah, it’s the middle class that always pays.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is now looking to pass the Build Back Better Act by Christmas. The bill, however, will likely face an additional vote in the House after changes are made in the Senate before it can head to Biden’s desk.

Tags Brian Deese Charles Schumer Chris Sununu Chuck Todd Dana Bash Joe Biden Joe Manchin Jon Tester Kirsten Gillibrand Ron Johnson

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