Not just Joe Manchin: Here's what stands in the way of Democrats passing Biden's social spending bill

  • Democrats have acknowledged the Senate will not vote on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act this year.
  • To pass President Joe Biden's signature social and climate policy legislation, Democrats will need to win over Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has raised a range of concerns with the bill.
  • Other obstacles include the Senate parliamentarian and a dispute over the state and local tax deduction cap.

President Joe Biden's top priority is in limbo.

Senate Democrats have acknowledged they will not pass the president's House-approved $1.75 trillion social spending and climate package this year. To pass it at all, they will have to resolve a range of lingering disputes that have flummoxed Democrats for months.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Biden "requested more time to continue his negotiations" around the plan, "so we will keep working with him hand in hand to bring this bill over the finish line." The New York Democrat has backed off his goal to pass the bill by Christmas.

Biden indicated Thursday night that a vote would slip at least into January. He said Democrats will "advance this work together over the days and weeks ahead," and that he and Schumer "are determined to see the bill successfully on the floor as early as possible."

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Many Democrats see the legislation as the key to boosting working families and showing voters they can govern before the 2022 midterms. But to check their top priority off their list, Democrats need to resolve multiple outstanding issues in the coming weeks.

  • The party has not won over Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia. In the 50-50 Senate, he can sink the bill on his own. Every Republican opposes it.
  • Manchin, who drove Democrats to cut the bill's price tag in half to $1.75 trillion, has expressed concerns about spending and inflation. The senator has denied reports that he opposes a one-year extension of the enhanced child tax credit — a piece in the House-passed bill that Democrats view as critical to cutting child poverty. The strengthened child tax credit passed earlier this year expires at the end of the month.
  • Manchin has criticized his party for using 10 years of revenue-raising measures to fund a bundle of programs that in some cases last a few years or less. Changes to that structure could require a massive rewrite of the bill. Biden and Manchin held talks this week, but they did not yield a breakthrough. The president said Thursday that the White House and the senator will continue discussions next week.
  • Appeasing Manchin alone will not get the job done for Democrats. They also need to keep centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema happy. The Arizona Democrat has at times during the process had different priorities than Manchin: she favors more clean-energy programs than her colleague and opposed a hike in the corporate tax rate, which Manchin signaled he would support.
  • If the Senate makes any changes to the House bill, the legislation will have to go back across the Capitol for another vote. While trying to craft a plan that Manchin and Sinema would support, Democrats also have to make sure House progressives would back a potentially less ambitious plan than the one they supported. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can only lose three Democratic votes and pass legislation.
  • The Senate parliamentarian also has to make a final ruling on what Democrats can include in their bill under the budget reconciliation process, which allows them to bypass GOP opposition to the plan. The party had one setback on Thursday when the parliamentarian ruled it could not include limited legal protections for millions of undocumented immigrants in the bill. In a joint statement Thursday, Schumer and five other Democratic senators said they will "pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act."
  • Democrats still have to craft a compromise over the state local tax deduction. The House lifted the cap on those deductions to $80,000 from $10,000 as part of its version of the bill. But senators including Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have looked for a way to revise the policy, which would disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers.

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