Schumer, Biden push forward on Build Back Better bill despite Manchin

December 20, 2021
Schumer, Biden push forward on Build Back Better bill despite Manchin
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Congressional Democrats, rocked by Sen. Joe Manchin’sopposition to President Joe Biden’s signature social spending and climate bill, will press forward with votes on their priorities regardless, Senate leadership said.

In a letter to colleagues Monday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote that the Senate would consider legislation addressing voting rights and the Build Back Better bill at the start of the new year. 

While Schumer touted several of Congress’ major milestones this session, including Democrats’ economic and pandemic stimulus package and a bipartisan infrastructure bill, the majority leader acknowledged “this session has also led to moments of deep discontent and frustration.”

One of those moments came Sunday, when Manchin announced his opposition to the roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, which includes universal prekindergarten, subsidized child care and actions to address climate change.

Biden and Democratic leaders had negotiated with the West Virginia Democrat for months in hopes to pass the measure.  

“Neither that delay, nor other recent pronouncements, will deter us from continuing to try to find a way forward,” Schumer wrote.

Without Manchin’s vote, it is unlikely Biden’s signature domestic policy package will pass in an evenly divided Senate. Schumer indicated that even if the bill will fail on the Senate floor, it will be brought to a vote “so that every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.” 

Movement on filibuster, voting rights 

Schumer also took aim at Senate Republicans over congressional gridlock, writing that if the GOP “continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation.”

But Republicans and some Democrats oppose changes to the filibuster, a legislative hurdle Republicans have used to block Democratic bills this year.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have opposed any changes to Senate rules. But many Democrats, ignited by fears over restrictive voter laws enacted in state legislatures, have renewed calls to reform Senate rules to enact voting rights.

As with Build Back Better, Schumer indicated the public deserved to have a clear understanding of each lawmaker’s position.

”I believe our constituents deserve to know which senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and absurd rules and which senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the founder’s intentions,” Schumer wrote.

Reaction from colleagues, White House

Manchin’s opposition to Build Back Better, announced on “Fox News Sunday,” was swiftly condemned by most of the party. Moderate House Democrats, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Connor Lamb, D-Pa., criticized the move alongside progressive colleagues like Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. 

The White House released a swift and sharp critique of Manchin after he pulled his support of the bill..

“If his comments on Fox and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” White House press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement.

She pushed back on each of Manchin’s stated objections to the bill’s climate and economic provisions.

“We will not relent in the fight to help Americans with their child care, health care, prescription drug costs, and elder care — and to combat climate change,” Psaki wrote. “We will find a way to move forward next year.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., on Sunday backed a floor vote on Build Back Better, as did Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

“We’ve been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month. But if he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world,” Sanders said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The Senate must return to session immediately and bring this historic and transformational bill to a vote so Senator Manchin — and every Republican who has opposed it from the very beginning — can demonstrate, on the record, the contempt they have for their constituents,” Pressley wrote in a statement.

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