Democrats are working hard to keep their fragile coalition of moderates and progressives united behind the sweeping $1.9 trillion economic legislation that stands as a pillar of President Joe Biden’s agenda and would address climate change, expand access to health care and deliver aid for families.
The legislation has been the subject of disputes between the warring factions of the party in the House, and will face an even more difficult road in the Senate where Democrats have no margin for error.
The legislation will likely have to be altered, potentially significantly, to get every member of the Senate Democratic caucus to vote for it as key members raise major concerns with the contents of the bill.
Pelosi said at her weekly press conference Thursday that the legislation is on track to for a vote in the House after a vote on a rule governing floor debate. “We will vote on the rule and then on the bill. Those votes will hopefully take place later this afternoon,” she said.
Democrats have been waiting for cost estimates for the legislation from the Congressional Budget Office before voting on the legislation and Pelosi said she expects the “final CBO estimates later this afternoon, hopefully by 5 o’ clock.”
But in a warning sign for the party, Manchin, the most important swing vote who has expressed major concerns over a variety of elements of the bill, told CNN on Thursday that he has not decided whether to support voting to proceed to the Build Back Better bill, the critical first vote to take up the measure in the Senate. Any one Democratic defection would stall the effort.
“No,” Manchin said when asked if he had made a decision to vote to proceed. “I’m still looking at everything.” The comments reflect that Manchin is still not on board with the legislation and signal the tough road ahead for Democrats.
The West Virginia Democrat said that he wants to see the final numbers from the Congressional Budget Office and changes made to the bill. “I just haven’t seen the final, the final bill. So when the final bill comes out, CBO score comes out, then we’ll go from there,” he said.
A fight is also brewing over a controversial tax provision that some progressives have decried as a giveaway to the rich.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, on Thursday railed on the House provisions dealing with the state and local tax deductions, calling it “wrong” and “bad politics.”
“Democrats correctly have campaigned on the understanding that amidst massive income and wealth inequality, we’ve got to demand that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes, not give them more tax breaks,” Sanders said.
“So what I can tell you is I am working with a number of Democrats who share that concern, and I hope as soon as possible to come up with a plan. But bottom line is we have to help the middle class and not the one percent.”
Pelosi defended the legislation against criticism that wealthy Americans will benefit disproportionately as a result of the provisions.
“That’s not about tax cuts for wealthy people. It’s about services for the American people,” she said.
“This isn’t about who gets a tax cut. It’s about which states get the revenue that they need in order to meet the needs of the people, and that is a fight that I will continue to make.”