As House Democrats work to pass a historic $3.5 trillion investment in the country’s climate and care economy by the end of the month, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois had some apt framing for what this process among congressional Democrats as a whole might look like.
“At the end of the day there will be 50 votes, but I think we’re going to go through a very healthy, loud family discussion at times,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told The Hill, adding that everyone is “marking out their territory right now.”
Democrats are likely to get something significant passed, but their Democrats-only budget bill’s size, scope, and pace remain in question.
Naturally, Sen. Joe Manchin stepped in over the weekend to throw a wrench in the works. On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Manchin again objected to the overall size of the bill and questioned some of its specific provisions.
“(Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer) will not have my vote on $3.5 (trillion), and Chuck knows that,” said Manchin, suggesting that Democrats scale down the package to $1.5 trillion. Of course, Manchin’s objection to the price tag is largely irrelevant as it relates to cost since Democrats are working diligently to pay for it through increased taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.
But Manchin also floated some ideas that will be immediate nonstarters with the party’s progressive wing, such as attaching work requirements to the Democrats’ child tax credit that has already lifted millions of kids out of poverty.
“There’s no work requirements whatsoever,” Manchin said Sunday, claiming that he wanted to help children. “There’s no education requirements whatsoever for better skill sets. Don’t you think, if we’re going to help the children, that the people should make some effort?”
Manchin also voiced concerns over a climate provision designed to speed the nation’s transition to clean energy by rewarding energy providers that use clean energy sources while penalizing those that don’t.
“The transition is happening. Now they’re wanting to pay companies for what they’re already doing,” he said. “It makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”
Both Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have dismissed Manchin’s calls to scale back the package. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee crafting the bill, also dismissed Manchin’s call for a $1.5 trillion package as unacceptable.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to the president, to the American people, or to the overwhelming majority of the people in the Democratic caucus,” Sanders told CNN. Sanders originally pushed for a $6 trillion bill, so he has already compromised significantly on the scale of the budget bill he hoped to produce. “I believe we’re going to all sit down and work together and come up with a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill which deals with the enormously unmet needs of working families,” Sanders added, expressing optimism that Democrats could iron out their differences.
The biggest challenge for Democrats is that they have no room for error since they will ultimately need all 50 Democratic senators and nearly the entire House Democratic caucus, which is significantly more progressive, to support the bill. The progressive wing of the House Democratic caucus didn’t exactly love the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Manchin helped negotiate with his centrist counterpart, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Nonetheless, House progressives voted for that bill knowing that it was a necessary compromise to get their more liberal budget bill through both chambers.
If the two senators tank the $3.5 trillion Democrats-only bill, they will also tank their own trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill.
In another interview with CNN, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York predicted that she and “many, many members of the progressive caucus simply will not vote for Sen. Manchin’s infrastructure bill unless it is tied together with the Build Back Better Act.”
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