It’s been more than five months since Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) surprised the White House by announcing on Fox News that he couldn’t get to yes on Democrats’ sweeping Build Back Better budget reconciliation package of climate programs, social spending and tax changes. Democrats had hoped to salvage portions of the legislation, but as The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, they are now poised to blow through an unofficial Memorial Day deadline for clinching a deal on a slimmed-down bill more focused on Manchin’s priorities.
Despite ongoing talks between Manchin and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer on a revamped reconciliation bill, Bolton reports that Senate Democrats say there’s no chance of an agreement this week. “They now point to the start of the August recess as the new deadline, arguing that gives them most of August to draft legislation and the month of September to pass it on the floor,” Bolton writes, adding that, “Such a timetable seems difficult, to say the least” given the challenges of passing major legislation just weeks before Election Day.
Some Democrats remain skeptical that they’ll be able to finalize a party-line package, while others are clinging to hope that Schumer will succeed where the White House could not. “The administration is not getting it done. Their relationships are too damaged. Only through Schumer is it going to get done but it’s not like it’s easy. I give it a 50-50 possibility of a modest bill getting done,” one unnamed Democratic senator told The Hill. Another Democratic senator, Tammy Duckworth, also told The Hill she puts the chances of passing a reconciliation bill at 50-50.
Manchin on Monday reportedly said at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos, Switzerland, that he believes lawmakers will be able to get something done. He has said that the new package should fight inflation, reduce the deficit and address climate change and he told reporters last week that all 50 Senate Democrats should be able to support a bill that cuts prescription drug costs.
The bottom line: Democrats aren’t likely to reach any deal on a reconciliation bill this week. The details of talks between Schumer and Manchin are being kept out of the press — and that silence is giving some Democrats reason for optimism that, as pre-election pressure builds, they’ll be able to reach some sort of slimmed down deal. But the process may still take months to play out.