Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos
Senate Democrats are preparing to plow ahead with President Biden’s social spending and climate legislation, even as Sen. Joe Manchin (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 Schumer (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.
“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 Cardin (D-Md.).
Sen. Tim Kaine (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 Psaki, 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.”
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 Wyden (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 Carper (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 Sinema (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.”
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 Pelosi (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 Jayapal (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.”
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