Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged Monday to bring the Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion social spending bill, to a vote next year after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition to the legislation.
The upper chamber will vote in early 2022 on the legislation, which the U.S. House of Representatives has already approved, Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a letter addressed to his Senate colleagues, arguing the bill's objectives are too important to ignore.
"Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television," Schumer said. "We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done."
Because the Democrats control the Senate by the slimmest of margins, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to offer a tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided chamber, Manchin's position on the Democrats' bill is decisive. Manchin, D-W.Va., told Fox News on Sunday that, among other things, he was concerned about the bill's impact on the national debt and inflation. He also pointed to broader concerns such as the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical unrest as areas Congress should be focused on.
"If I can't go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for it," he said. "And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't; I've tried everything humanly possible — I can't get there."
In response, the White House released a scathing statement accusing Manchin of going against his word to President Joe Biden.
"Sen. Manchin's comments this morning on Fox are at odds with his discussions this week with the president, with White House staff and with his own public utterances," press secretary Jen Psaki said.
For his part, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement Sunday evening that Democrats must still find a route to pass key priorities in the bill pertaining to the cost of health care, climate change and the child tax credit. The Senate must act now, Wyden said, if the country wants to prevent the worst effects of climate change and provide longer-term support for families through the child tax credit.
"A package that addresses critical priorities over the long term, like providing financial security for families, lowering the costs of health care and prescription drugs for seniors and creating clean energy jobs by combating the climate crisis would go a long way toward addressing our challenges," Wyden said. "The Finance Committee has put forward a revenue menu with more than enough options to permanently pay for these priorities."
Congressional Democrats have negotiated with each other and the White House over the size and scope of the budget for months, finally dropping the initial price tag from $3.5 trillion and stripping out numerous priorities in late October. The House passed the legislation in November.
House and Senate lawmakers spent those months fine-tuning the Build Back Better Act and its provisions addressing child care, education, family leave, health care and climate change. Republicans and a handful of centrist Democrats have been wary of what they have characterized as a bloated tax-and-spend proposal.
The House-passed legislation would fund its spending proposals with individual and corporate tax increases that include raising the rates on several levies on U.S.- and internationally-based companies' foreign earnings. It would impose a 1% excise tax on corporate stock buybacks and a 15% alternative minimum corporate book income tax for businesses that report more than $1 billion in adjusted financial income.
The plan's tax hikes on high-income individuals include a 5% tax on taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income in excess of $10 million and an additional tax of 3% on income higher than $25 million. The bill also includes a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit for families earning up to $150,000 per year.
Speaking with the West Virginia-based MetroNews station on Monday, Manchin said he would not be bullied into supporting the bill by its supporters.
"They figured, 'Surely to God we can move one person,'" he said. "'Surely, we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they'll just say, 'OK, I'll vote for anything, just quit.'"
Manchin also encouraged Schumer to bring the bill for a vote before the full chamber.
Manchin's office could not immediately be reached for comment.
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