President Joe Biden on Thursday all but confirmed that Senate Democrats are unlikely to vote on his $1.7 trillion social spending package before Christmas.
Biden said in a statement that he had “a productive call” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. earlier in the day after meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but also emphasized the lengthy process that lies ahead.
“It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote. We will advance this work together over the days and weeks ahead; Leader Schumer and I are determined to see the bill successfully on the floor as early as possible,” Biden said.
Senate Democrats have been hoping to hold a vote on the House-passed Build Back Better bill before Christmas, but negotiations have dragged on for weeks with Manchin, who has raised numerous concerns about the legislation.
“My team and I are having ongoing discussions with Senator Manchin; that work will continue next week,” Biden said.
Manchin lashed out at reporters this week when pressed on his concerns with the legislation, such as the inclusion of child tax credit payments, which are set to expire at the end of the year.
Biden’s statement on Thursday drew a sharp response from progressive lawmakers, who have pushed for swift passage of the bill after they supported a bipartisan infrastructure package earlier this year.
“Delaying passage of Build Back Better until 2022 would have immediate and devastating consequences,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Thursday night.
“Progressives have worked diligently with the White House and Senate over the better part of this year to set up for this moment. The version of Build Back Better we passed out of the House was agreed to by nearly every Senator caucusing with the Democrats — and we sent it to the upper chamber based on the President’s promise that he could deliver the 50 Senators needed to make it law,” Jayapal added.
Amid the stalled Build Back Better bill, many Senate Democrats have pushed for passing voting rights legislation. But doing so would require the support of at least 10 Republican senators, unless Democrats change the Senate rules and allow the legislation to pass with a simple majority.
Biden, in his Thursday statement, pushed for passage of both bills.
“We will — we must — get Build Back Better passed, even in the face of Republican opposition. At the same time, we must also press forward on voting rights legislation, and make progress on this as quickly as possible.”