Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will vote on President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan early in the new year despite a lack of enough votes in his own party to pass the measure.
Schumer on Monday announced another major move: The Senate “will consider changes” to the long-standing 60-vote threshold that has allowed Senate Republicans to block election and voting overhaul legislation that Democrats have been trying to pass for months.
The move sets up a clash with centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, who is poised to vote against both the spending bill and a major change to the filibuster.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, announced the plan early Monday morning, a day after Manchin announced on Fox News he would not back the spending legislation, citing the high cost.
Schumer’s frustration with Manchin was evident in the announcement, and the dual votes will likely intensify pressure on the centrist holdout to go along with the rest of the caucus.
“Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television,” Schumer said in a statement. “We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done.”
Schumer said the Senate will consider voter overhaul legislation as early as the first week of January, which is likely to trigger a vote on a filibuster change.
“If Senate Republicans 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,” Schumer added.
Senate Democrats will hold a special virtual caucus meeting on Tuesday to discuss the plan to change or end the filibuster.
Manchin’s televised announcement struck a death blow to the massive spending bill, which would have created a broad array of new government programs and subsidies and was to become a signature achievement for Biden and Democrats as they head into the 2022 midterm elections.
Democrats control 50 seats and planned to use a special procedure that would allow them to avoid a Republican filibuster and pass the bill with the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
But Manchin dashed those plans, telling Fox News Sunday he’s concerned about the nation’s $29 trillion in debt and inflation, which is hitting his West Virginia constituents very hard.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” Manchin said. “I just can't. I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there.”
In calling up the doomed bill for a vote, Schumer appears to be heeding the advice of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and socialist and one of the chief architects of Build Back Better.
Shortly after Manchin’s on-air announcement, Sanders told CNN that Manchin would have to explain his decision to West Virginians and should vote on the bill.
“We've been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month,” Sanders said. “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.”
Democrats had grown frustrated with Manchin after negotiations dragged on for months and he would not agree to support the spending bill even though he managed to get lawmakers to cut the price tag in half and remove several liberal wish list items, such as free community college.
Schumer’s Monday memo acknowledged that Democrats are frustrated and said they will continue to bring up the spending legislation until it can garner 50 votes, including that of Manchin.
Blaming Manchin for the delay, Schumer said the Senate will somehow move ahead despite his objections to the bill.
“That frustration was evident in the past week as nearly all of us were disappointed by the decision to delay floor consideration of the Build Back Better Act because Senator Manchin could not come to an agreement with the president,” Schumer wrote to Democrats. “However, neither that delay, nor other recent pronouncements, will deter us from continuing to try to find a way forward. We simply cannot give up. We must and we will keep fighting to deliver for working families.”
Manchin is also poised to thwart the plan by Democrats to change the 60-vote threshold, which allows Republicans to filibuster legislation. At least one other Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, is also opposed to ending the filibuster or attempting to create a one-time exception to it, which would essentially pave the way to ending it.
Democrats last week hoped to win an agreement among their own party lawmakers to create an exception to the filibuster in order to pass their election overhaul bill. Republicans oppose the overhaul bill because they say it reduces voter integrity, grants the federal government control over local elections, and is written to favor Democratic victories at the polls.
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The bill would block many red-state voter integrity laws that increased identification requirements, cleaned up voter rolls, and made other changes aimed at preventing voter fraud.
Schumer called the state-level changes “voter suppression laws.”
It would require the votes of all 50 Democrats, including Manchin and Sinema, to change the Senate rules, however. Harris would then cast the tiebreaking vote for Democrats.
“I believe our constituents deserve to know which senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which Senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders’ intentions,” Schumer said.