Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos

Senate Democrats are preparing to plow ahead with President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE’s social spending and climate legislation, even as Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE (D-W.Va.) yo-yos over the timeline. 

With the House passing the social spending and climate bill on Friday, the clock is now ticking in the Senate, where Democrats have no room for error if they are going to be able to get a bill to Biden. 

Senate Democrats say Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProgressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan Collins says she supports legislation putting Roe v. Wade protections into law Biden should seek some ideological diversity MORE (D-N.Y.) wants to pass the bill by the end of the year, even if it pushes up against, or even into, the holidays. 

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“The timeline is to get it done this year. That is clearly Sen. Schumer’s desire, and I think, quite frankly, if there’s a path forward, we stay here until we get it done, regardless of what that date is,” said Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis Cardin Senators propose sanctions against Iran over alleged plot to kidnap US journalist It's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (D-Md.). 

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineLiberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Menendez jabs State official over Colombian group's terror designation MORE (D-Va.) predicted that the Senate passes the bill and gets it to Biden “in December.” 

“We’ll work on it, I believe, probably up until Christmas,” he added. 

Even as Democrats are predicting an end-of-the-year time frame, they don’t yet have a lock on the 50 votes they’ll need to navigate the legislation through a series of procedural landmines.

"High senior staff-level" White House officials are in touch with Manchin, according to White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Biden's winter COVID-19 strategy Biden lays out multi-pronged plan to deal with evolving pandemic White House defends travel ban on African countries MORE, who characterized Manchin and his staff as negotiating "in good faith."

"We've been in close touch ... with Sen. Manchin," she said. "That includes answering questions he may have, hearing concerns he may have."

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Manchin has shifted throughout the week on whether he supports a Christmas timeline. He initially told reporters that he had “concerns” before signaling a day later that he was OK with Schumer’s plan to vote by the end of the year. 

“I'm not in charge of the timing. Whatever they want to do is fine with me,” Manchin said.

But Manchin has been clear that he doesn’t yet support the climate and spending bill. Manchin has taken issue with language related to a tax credit for electric vehicles, though Democrats are continuing to try to figure out a way to address Manchin’s concerns to keep the language in the bill. 

“I know some of my colleagues have questions about one issue or another, but we’re going to talk to senators. I talk to Sen. Manchin constantly,” said Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Democrats push tax credits to bolster clean energy Five reasons for concern about Democrats' drug price control plan MORE (D-Ore.), noting that the clean energy provisions had been “carefully constructed.” 

Democrats are also still waiting to see if Manchin buys into a plan to combat methane emission after already killing a key plan aimed at incentivizing companies to shift to clean energy. 

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems seek to preserve climate provisions Democrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill  Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Del.) said that they had drafted the new methane language with “a lot of input” from Manchin and others.

“My hope is that it will find favor,” Carper said. 

Manchin is also still opposed to including paid family leave in the bill, increasing the chances that it will ultimately be jettisoned.

And he’s not yet willing to say that he will start the debate on the social spending and spending plan. To bring the bill to the Senate floor, Schumer will need total unity in his caucus.

“No, no, I’m still looking at everything,” Manchin said. “When the final bill comes out, when the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] score comes out, then we’ll go from there.” 

Manchin isn’t the only Democrat who is on the fence — Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBiden should seek some ideological diversity Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Pence-linked group launches 0K ad campaign in West Virginia praising Manchin MORE (D-Ariz.) hasn’t said if she will support the bill, and the House legislation is facing several changes as Senate Democrats tune in. But he’s been the most open about his red flags, sometimes to the chagrin of his colleagues. 

Schumer, asked about a timeline for Build Back Better, told reporters that Senate Democrats “aim to pass it before Christmas.” 

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House Democrats are hoping that most of the bill will survive the Senate intact. In addition to needing to clear Senate rules on what can be included in a budget bill, the Senate also goes through an unwieldy vote-a-rama where any member who wants to force a vote can. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters that she didn’t “fear” changes from the Senate, adding that the bill will be “transformative and historic” regardless. And Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill MORE (D-Wash.) told MSNBC that she believed the bill was largely worked out between the House and Senate. 

“I have spoken with both of them. I believe that the vast majority of this bill is preconferenced and that Joe Manchin will come along, Kyrsten Sinema will come along, because we need to deliver this,” she said. 

But Senate Democrats acknowledge, even as they prepare to plow ahead, that the bill is likely to be changed from what comes over from the House. 

Cardin said that Senate Democrats still have to “get everything together” in order to pass the bill by the end of the year. 

“I’m optimistic, but sometimes it takes a little longer to get there. ... It’s not just one member,” he said. 

“We may have a prescription drug problem. We might have a tax problem,” he added. “We have to resolve those.”