Pelosi says "there's an agreement to be reached" with Manchin on Build Back Better
Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she believes a deal can still be reached with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin on President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan after negotiations were put on ice last month.
In an interview with "Face the Nation," Pelosi said she has spoken with Manchin "over time," and believes there is still a chance for Congress to get the bill to Mr. Biden's desk.
"I do think there's an agreement to be reached," the House speaker said. "It's so important for our country."
Manchin pulled his support for Mr. Biden's $1.75 trillion tax-and-spending plan in December due to concerns over inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic and the national debt, delivering a near-fatal blow to the package, which is a key pillar of the president's domestic policy agenda.
The Democratic senator has been at the crux of discussions over the proposal, which includes Democrats' plans to combat climate change, provide paid family and medical leave, expand health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act and offer universal pre-K.
A version of Mr. Biden's package passed the House in November, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a late-December goal for it to clear the Senate. But as negotiations between Manchin and the White House began to break down just before the Christmas holiday over the measure, particularly regarding the expanded child tax credit, Senate Democrats shifted their focus to voting rights legislation.
Pelosi said last month that Democratic leaders are still "hopeful" members could reach an agreement on the social pending plan that would lead to its passage.
While she reiterated Sunday her belief that the White House and Manchin could bridge their divides over the president's proposal, Pelosi said the order of legislative items currently being pursued in the Senate — voting rights first, followed by the domestic policy plan — is "very appropriate."
"There's nothing more important for us to do than protect our Constitution and our democracy," she said. "What the Republicans are doing across the country is really a legislative continuation of what they did on January 6, which is to undermine our democracy, to undermine the integrity of our elections, to undermine the voting power, which is the essence of a democracy."
"We have to do that bill," Pelosi continued. "There is no more important bill that enables us to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Still, the margins in the evenly divided Senate effectively make it impossible to get voting rights legislation as currently constructed to Mr. Biden's desk for his signature. Senate Republicans have on numerous occasions blocked legislation that would reform the nation's election laws from advancing, which requires 60 votes, and Schumer last week poured cold water on the possibility of making changes to the Electoral Count Act, which some lawmakers suggested could be updated, in lieu of more sweeping voting rights legislation.
Still, Pelosi said Democrats "have to keep working" to get voting rights legislation through both chambers of Congress.
"They are not only suppressing the vote, suppressing the vote, they are nullifying elections, saying it doesn't matter who gets more votes, it matters who the three we appoint to analyze that, what they decide," she said. "We cannot let that happen."
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