Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to miss his self-imposed deadline to hold a vote on President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social spending bill by the end of this year as key moderate Sen. Joe Manchin remains noncommittal, according to a new report.
While Biden himself and other top Democrats have insisted the massive Build Back Better Act can clear Congress before Christmas, NBC News reported that Schumer (D-NY) is likely to hold off on bringing the measure to the floor until 2022.
In addition to the opposition from Manchin (D-WV) to key portions of the bill — most notably an expanded child tax credit — Democrats reportedly have yet to reach an agreement on other sticking points, including how much people in high-tax locations can deduct from state and local taxes.
In place of the spending bill, sources told NBC, Schumer is attempting to shift his focus to an election reform measure — the passage of which is contingent on senators like Manchin reaching an agreement on changing the chamber’s rules.
A person familiar with the discussions told the Washington Post that Manchin is open to various rule changes to ensure the elections measure, known as the Freedom To Vote Act, can pass the Senate without having to clear the chamber’s 60-vote legislative filibuster.
However, Manchin told reporters Tuesday he would not support any rule changes without buy-in from Republicans.
“All my discussions have been bipartisan, with Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “A rules change should be done to where we all have input in this rules change, because we’re all going to have to live with it. Because we’ll be in the minority sometime and then in the majority, back and forth.”
Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the driving force behind the Build Back Better plan, told reporters Wednesday: “In terms of time priorities, obviously voting rights has got to be dealt with immediately. I would like to see Build Back Better dealt with as quickly as possible but if we can’t deal with it right now, it’s far more important that we deal with the voting rights issue.”
However, Sanders declined to confirm that was Schumer’s plan, saying: “I’ll let Leader Schumer speak for himself.”
A spokesman for Schumer told NBC News that Democrats are “still trying to do both.”
When Biden was asked Wednesday morning if he believes the bill will be passed this year, he answered, “I hope so. It’s going to be close.”
However, a Democratic source told The Post that the discussions between the president and Manchin “have been going very poorly. They are far apart.”
The source added that Manchin had proposed cutting the expanded child tax credit from the bill completely, a move that is likely to draw pushback from his fellow Democrats.
As Democrats face a steep climb to keep the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms, liberal and progressive lawmakers have been keen to pass a bill overriding election reform laws enacted in Republican-led states like Georgia and Texas that have regulated early voting hours and restricted mail-in voting.
During a holiday celebration with the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday night, Biden emphasized that the battle for a voting rights bill “is not over.”
“The struggle is no longer just who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible people to vote,” he said. “It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all. It’s a sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion. It’s un-American, it’s un-democratic, it’s unpatriotic. And, sadly, it is not unprecedented now.”
Biden went on to slam Senate Republicans for blocking debate on the legislation and told supporters: “This door is not closed. We have to keep up the fight and get it done, because our democracy depends on it.”