- Manchin poses a big obstacle for Democrats trying to approve Biden’s big bill by Christmas.
- Democrats want to pass it to prevent cutting off families from monthly child tax credit checks.
- Manchin has remained publicly silent since a Friday report showing a surge in inflation.
Senate Democrats are scrambling to approve a $2 trillion economic spending plan by year’s end. But a swing vote within their ranks could still slam the brakes and upend their aggressive timetable, kicking it into next year.
Democrats are still sticking to their Christmas deadline to approve the sprawling bill, which includes an expansion of Medicare to cover hearing, a one-year extension of the child tax credit, funding for affordable housing, universal pre-K and childcare subsidies. It would be paid for with tax increases on large firms and wealthy Americans.
Senior Democrats are leaning into the pending expiration of up to $300 in monthly checks to families as a pressure point to wrap up work on the bill. Around 35 million families are receiving the federal cash and the last scheduled payment will go out on Dec. 15.
“Let’s pass and enact Build Back Better into law before Christmas so families won’t see their checks come to a halt in the coming months and families— as they’re doing their Christmas shopping — can be assured that new checks will be coming over the next year,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Thursday floor speech.
Manchin, however, has not thrown his backing behind the legislation and all 50 Senate Democrats must give it a thumbs-up for it to clear the 50-50 chamber, given strong GOP opposition. He’s repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation contributing to inflation and whether it would be fully paid for by the tax increases. Manchin remained silent after a key government report on Friday showed consumer prices had risen 6.8% compared to a year ago.
Manchin’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Internal Revenue Service has told Congress that Dec. 28 is the latest date that the bill must pass to ensure monthly checks are issued to families. The IRS and the Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats appear far from done from finalizing key aspects of the legislation. They’re still haggling over tax cuts for higher-income families in predominantly blue states and those negotiations are ongoing. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is pushing to scale back those tax breaks, warning it would be too generous for the rich.
The “Build Back Better” bill may be pared down further to gain Manchin’s support as the West Virginia Democrat has lambasted a measure to provide four weeks of paid parental and medical leave.
Republicans are also trying to pressure Manchin to sink the bill. They released an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office indicating it could add $3 trillion to the federal deficit. Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said at a press conference on Friday that Manchin seemed “stunned” at the findings.
President Joe Biden said on Friday that he was unsure whether he could get Manchin’s support for the bill this year. The pair are set to talk early this week in what will be a high-stakes meeting.