Democrats Likely To Put Off Vote On Build Back Better To Next Year

The stalling of a big Democratic priority is a blow for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is hoping to pass the legislation by Christmas Day.

Unable to reach an agreement among themselves on several key provisions, Democrats are likely to push back a vote on their social spending and climate package, the Build Back Better Act, into the next year.

The stalling of a big Democratic priority is a blow for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had hoped to pass the legislation into law by Christmas Day. The bill still isn’t finalized and several key holdouts remain, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) all but acknowledged a vote on Build Back Better will get postponed until January at the earliest. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee told reporters that Democrats are considering all available options to pass a standalone extension of the monthly child tax credit payments, which will be interrupted if Build Back Better is not made law by the end of the year.

Democrats are hoping to continue the monthly benefits for one year. The program has cut child poverty by nearly 30% since payments started in July.

But Manchin has reportedly continued to voice objections to the expanded child tax credit program, telling President Joe Biden he wants to strike its funding level that was included in the Build Back Better legislation, according to CNN.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a chief advocate of the program, said he hoped that wasn’t true and that he would be “very, very surprised” if Manchin did indeed hold that position.

“I thought we had an agreement” on a one-year extension of the child tax credit, Bennet added.

Manchin on Wednesday disputed the notion that he is opposed to the child tax credit, but he declined to respond to a question whether he supports extending the child tax credit via Build Back Better. “I’ve always been for the child tax credit,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

There are other obstacles to getting the legislation done this year. Negotiations over key provisions such as methane emissions fees, electric vehicle tax credits and the state and local tax deduction still aren’t complete. And bipartisan talks with the Senate parliamentarian to make sure the bill complies with reconciliation rules that will allow Democrats to sidestep a filibuster haven’t even begun yet.

In short, without agreement from all 50 Democrats, Schumer cannot finalize the legislative text, and therefore cannot begin the process of putting the bill on the floor.

Democrats may yet get all their ducks in a row and end up passing the bill in the coming weeks, possibly in early January. But their big worry is that blowing off another deadline may doom the bill entirely. The party is eager to move on to other, less dysfunctional things, and rising inflation could give Manchin even more reason to hit the brakes on the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), at least, refused to concede a delay in remarks at a press conference on Wednesday.

“I’m still hopeful that it will pass,” Pelosi said. “I’m not going to have a postmortem on something that hasn’t died. I think that we will have legislation and it will pass. I hope the sooner the better.”

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