U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday the Senate will vote “very early in the new year” on President Joe Biden’s social safety net spending plan, expressing a need to push forward after a key Democrat said he could not support it.
In a letter to Democratic colleagues, Schumer cited frustration and disappointment among members of his caucus as Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to the roughly $2 trillion package scuttled hopes of Democratic leaders to get the legislation approved before the December 25 Christmas holiday.
“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,” Schumer said.
The House of Representatives has already approved a version of the bill.Schumer said the Senate will vote on a “revised version” of that legislation “and we will keep voting on it until we get something done."
Schumer’s letter comes a day after Manchin, who discussed the legislation at length with Biden last week, told the Fox News cable network’s “Fox News Sunday” show, “If I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.”
“I just can’t,” Manchin said. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a ‘no’ on this legislation.”
Manchin has expressed concerns about the size and scope of the package.His vote is essential for Democrats in the politically divided Senate as they try to pass one of the key elements of Biden’s legislative agenda.None of the 50 Republicans in the 100-member chamber supports the plan to expand health care for older Americans, provide universal pre-kindergarten classes, authorize new funding to combat climate change and offer more financial support for low-income Americans.
Democrats had hoped to push through the legislation on a 51-50 vote before Christmas, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote.
The White House said Manchin last week offered a framework for a compromise on the legislation and “promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday that if Manchin’s comments “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.”
She rebuffed Manchin’s claims that the legislation would add to the surge in consumer prices in the United States, the highest in nearly four decades, or add to the country’s long-term debt, now more than $29 trillion, because the new spending would be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.
One of the key Senate architects of the legislation, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, reacted angrily to Manchin’s refusal to support fellow Democratic colleagues and vote for it. Sanders said Manchin “doesn’t have the guts” to take on special business interests who would be impacted most by the legislation.
Sanders told the Cable News Network’s “State of the Union” show he wants the Senate to vote on the measure anyway, even if it is headed to defeat, to force Manchin to publicly account for his vote.
“He’s going to have a lot of explaining to do with the people of West Virginia,” Sanders said. “Let him vote ‘no’ and explain it to the world.”
Some information for this report came from Reuters.