Manchin says there’s ‘an awful lot of work’ to do on Biden’s $1.75T bill as Christmas deadline looms

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is forcing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pump the breaks on his goal of passing President Joe Biden‘s $1.75 trillion social and climate reform package by Christmas.

In a letter sent to colleagues on Monday, Schumer again told lawmakers that the Build Back Better bill needs to pass by the end of the month. 

And despite the legislative calendar ending at the end of this week, Schumer warned of ‘more long days and nights, and potentially weekends’ as the clock ticks down on several big items Congress needs to pass before year’s end.

‘Now that the House has passed the reconciliation bill, our goal in the Senate is to pass the legislation before Christmas and get it to the president’s desk,’ Schumer wrote. 

‘Of course, there are other priorities we plan to address before the end of the year as well, including voting rights, debt limit, NDAA, among others.’

Manchin, who opposes a paid family leave provision passed in the House’s version, was asked about the letter and appeared hesitant to jump on board.

‘There’s an awful lot of work that’s being done,’ he told The Hill. ‘I’m not in control of the time.’

‘Maybe they’ll get it done by that time, maybe not. I don’t have any control over that.’

Schumer told senators to get ready for more long nights and weekends to pass Biden's agenda

Manchin pumped the breaks on Schumer’s assurances that the Senate will vote on Build Back Better by Christmas after the Senate Majority Leader told colleagues in a letter to get ready for more long nights and weekends

Other provisions in the bill include expansions to Medicare and Medicaid, tax breaks for electric vehicles and universal pre-school.  

Schumer privately told senators he wanted to pass Build Back Better sometime next week, the outlet reported, though intense months-long gridlock that’s bled into December appears to have made that impossible. 

Manchin disagreed with the notion that he was scuttling Schumer’s timeline altogether, however, telling CNN: ‘I’m not skeptical. I’m just basically a realist.’

‘There’s an awful lot there and a lot of changes to be done and you’re throwing it at a time when it’s very vulnerable in our economy,’ Manchin said.

Aside from his opposition to paid family leave – a provision Biden cares deeply about – Manchin also disputes the White House’s claim that passing the sweeping spending bill won’t worsen already-soaring inflation.

‘I haven’t seen that. I’ve heard that. I don’t – I don’t know how you control inflation when there’s the first year of spending is going to be quite large,’ he said.

US inflation rates skyrocketed as the economy recovers from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In October the price of consumer goods went up 6.2 percent from the year before, a 31-year high. 

But Schumer will need to convince Manchin to get on board if the bill has any hope of passing. The Senate’s 50-50 split means every Democrat needs to vote in lock-step in order to pass the bill via reconciliation – a budget process that would get a bill to Biden’s desk with a simple majority vote.

With less than three weeks until December 25, Democrats are caught in a time crunch to make some of Biden’s key promises reality before the year is over. 

Aside from passing his $1.75 trillion spending plan, the president’s party must also pass a defense funding bill that’s faced delays and disagreements over measures involving China and Russia. 

Democrats are also hoping to pass voting rights legislation, which they could only do if they abolish the filibuster to side-step guaranteed GOP opposition. 

Manchin is opposed to paid family leave, a provision in the $1.75 trillion bill that is especially important to Biden

Manchin is opposed to paid family leave, a provision in the $1.75 trillion bill that is especially important to Biden

Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, meaning any legislation without GOP support could risk being killed by unending delays.

But again, Manchin stands in the way. He and fellow moderate Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema argue that the filibuster is a necessary process to encourage bipartisan talks, while other Democrats accuse Republicans of weaponizing it to kill progressive agenda items.

Action must also be taken to raise the debt limit or risk the US running out of cash for the first time in history and defaulting on its debts.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell first tried to pressure Democrats to include action on the debt ceiling in Biden’s reconciliation package. 

When that failed Congress passed two stopgap measures to temporarily fund the government and avoid a partial shutdown. 

The latest of the two bills is set to run out on February 18. McConnell has reportedly been in private talks with Schumer on how to get it done: one option would be tying it to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act setting the military budget, while the other would entail creating a new rule allowing Democrats to raise the debt limit with a simple 51-50 vote. 

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