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Schumer vows Senate vote on $1.75 trillion social spending plan despite Manchin opposition

Manchin won't vote for Build Back Better Act
Manchin won't vote for Build Back Better Act 02:18

Washington — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged Monday that the Senate will take up President Biden's nearly $2 trillion plan to expand the social safety net and combat climate change despite West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin pulling his support for the legislation.

In a letter to his fellow Senate Democrats, Schumer said moving forward with a vote in early 2022 on a revised version of the package that cleared the House in November will ensure every senator "has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television."

Manchin, a moderate Democrat whose support for the measure is crucial in the evenly split Senate, announced his opposition to the legislation in an interview with "Fox News Sunday," dealing a major setback to Mr. Biden's domestic policy agenda. The West Virginia senator cited concerns over inflation, the national debt and the COVID-19 pandemic as driving his decision to yank support for the plan.

After Manchin revealed his opposition to the sweeping bill in its current form, the White House issued a blistering statement suggesting his comments to Fox News were a sharp departure from private discussions with Mr. Biden, White House aides and Manchin's own public statements.

"Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

But on Monday, Manchin said in a radio interview with West Virginia's "Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval" that Democrats erred in thinking they could pressure him into backing Mr. Biden's social spending package and blamed White House staff for the collapse in negotiations, saying "they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable."

"They figured, surely to God we can move one person, surely we can badger and beat one person up, surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they'll just say, 'OK, I'll vote for anything,' just quit," he said. "But guess what? I'm from West Virginia. I'm not from where they're from, where they just beat the living crap out of people and think they'll be submissive, period."

Manchin said Democratic leaders acted as though the party holds a larger majority in the Senate than its 50 seats and failed to account for the differing views among their caucus.

"You all are approaching legislation as if you had 55 or 60 senators that are Democrats and you can do whatever you want," he said. "Well, you know what, we're all a little bit diverse. I said, I'm not a Washington Democrat."

Manchin has been at the center of negotiations over the $1.75 trillion package, which is a cornerstone of the president's domestic policy agenda and would overhaul the nation's paid leave, health care, and child care policies, among other issues. The legislation also contained $555 billion to fight climate change.

While Mr. Biden initially put forth a $3.5 trillion proposal focusing on the environment and expanding social safety net programs, opposition from Manchin to the price tag led the White House to drastically scale back the plan to $1.75 trillion.

But even after weeks of negotiations between Mr. Biden and Manchin over the details of package, discussions broke down last week over an expanded child tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year and an extension of which was included in the legislation.

Senate Democrats then suggested they would shift their focus to voting rights legislation, though past attempts to reform the nation's election laws have failed due to Republican opposition.

Still, Schumer said members will consider voting rights legislation when it returns in early January and warned if Republicans continue to filibuster the measure, the Senate will then consider a change to the chamber's rules.

"We all agree that the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. With that in mind, I would ask you to consider this question: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?" he wrote, adding that "constituents deserve to know which senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders' intentions."

Senate Democrats are poised to hold a virtual meeting Tuesday, Schumer said.

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