Pelosi Wants to Pass Biden Agenda by Christmas, but Manchin May Have Other Plans

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  • Nancy Pelosi
    Nancy Pelosi
    Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • Joe Manchin
    United States Senator from West Virginia
  • Chuck Schumer
    Chuck Schumer
    American politician

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Wednesday that she expects the bill containing much of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda to pass both houses of Congress before the holiday break.

“We feel very confident about what is in Build Back Better,” Pelosi told reporters. “We know what some possibilities are, and it would be my hope that we would have this bill done before the Christmas vacation.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is also pushing to finish the roughly $2 trillion package focused on social and climate programs before lawmakers leave town in December.

But at least one member of Schumer’s caucus may make it hard to stick to that timetable. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) reiterated his concerns about the bill, saying that he still wants to take a “strategic pause” to give lawmakers time to evaluate the state of the Covid-19 pandemic and the strength of the economy, with a special focus on inflation.

“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at,” Manchin said Tuesday. “We’ve gotta make sure we get this right. We just can’t continue to flood the market, as we’ve done.”

While Manchin hasn’t explicitly said he is opposed to passing the bill in the next few weeks, he has held back from expressing support for Democratic leadership’s ambitious timetable.

A gentle lobbying effort: Manchin and another potential Democratic holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are the object of a lobbying campaign in the Senate to win their support for the bill. The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reports that fellow Democrats have had “polite, respectful and substantive” conversations with the two as they try to lock down two votes they can’t afford to lose in an evenly divided chamber, though so far without noticeable effect.

“To me, the priority is getting 50 votes,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). “Joe’s been pretty clear about the parts of the House-passed bill that he doesn’t like, and I think there’s still some work to be done. So we’re all going to be invested in creative solutions to get all 50 of us to yes.”

House to remain in town: Pelosi said she is prepared to keep the House in session beyond Friday, when the winter break is officially scheduled to start. If the Senate does pass the Build Back Better bill, it’s expected that its version will differ in some ways from that of the House, and the Democratic leader says she is prepared to work on finalizing the bill as needed.

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