The House just passed President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion spending bill, known as the Build Back Better Act – a major piece of legislation that would transform the nation’s social safety net, despite being whittled down to roughly half its original size amid infighting between the party’s moderate and progressive wings.
Now the bill must be taken up by the Senate, an effort that will put party unity to the ultimate test.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement after the House passed the bill that the Senate “will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk and deliver help for middle-class families.”
Schumer said they’ll take it up, “As soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate Parliamentarian has been completed.”
Senate Democrats have no margin of error to approve the legislation and key lawmakers — most prominently moderate West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — have expressed concerns over elements of the plan as policy fights loom on the horizon.
Manchin 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.
Manchin also reiterated his concerns about inflation. “Everyone’s concerned, they should be concerned about inflation, because it’s real. Inflation is real,” he said. “So we got to make sure we get through this the best we can, and put no more burden on them.”
A fight is also brewing over a controversial tax provision that some progressives have decried as a giveaway to the rich.
Earlier this month, House Democrats came to an agreement to deal with state and local tax deductions after Democrats from the Northeast and West Coast had pushed to loosen the caps imposed by the 2017 tax law. Under the SALT deal, deductions would be capped at $80,000 per year over a nine-year time span.
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.”