Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress had huge spending plans in mind when 2021 began. The “Build Back Better” agenda was going to cruise through along with a massive defense policy package, a “voting rights” bill, the “Green New Deal,” and more. As we move into December, much of the wish list remains unfulfilled. The Democrats did get their $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill enacted, thanks to some votes from Senate Republicans in the summer.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has repeatedly said that he wants to get a Senate vote on Biden’s budget reconciliation “Build Back Better” spending bill done before Christmas. The reality that he has to have every member of the Democratic caucus pull it off has been a so-far unbreakable barrier.
This week, moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) maintained that he was not committed to bringing the bill for a vote that would allow even the amendment process to begin. This week, he reviewed the bill in conference with leadership and asked how additional federal spending programs would reduce inflation.
Manchin said his concerns over inflation and the newest coronavirus variant should give the Senate “cause to pause.” He said that December “will be a long month” for the spending bill.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said that a December deadline is “overwhelming,” although he would instead be facing it now rather than at the end of May. He expressed confidence that the Senate would get the pending defense bill passed but blamed the spending bill’s difficulty on a coordinated Republican strategy to delay.
The negotiations on the budget reconciliation bill have moved off center stage as Democratic leadership is expecting to learn what parts of the bill the Senate parliamentarian will permit to remain as part of the budgetary process, thereby avoiding the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to advance the bill. Republicans are aggressively challenging the immigration provisions of the bill as being non-budgetary for a reconciliation bill.