Home Agenda “A 50-50 Senate sucks”: discouraged Democrats worry about agenda failure amid bleak prospects for 2022

“A 50-50 Senate sucks”: discouraged Democrats worry about agenda failure amid bleak prospects for 2022

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The main issues they have promised to meet, such as a bill to revise electoral laws, have virtually no chance of becoming law. And the bigger ticket – the $ 1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan to dramatically extend the social safety net – still mired in talks with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, has yet to be drafted. in the final legislative text or even fully approved by the parliamentarian of the Senate.
Despite major accomplishments this year, such as passing the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure law and the nearly $ 2 trillion Covid relief plan amid razor thin majorities in both chambers, there is a palpable sense of frustration among Democrats that much more should have been accomplished – especially given the range of promises they made to their constituents and the deadlines they imposed on themselves by their leaders whom they have surpassed.
The liberals are angry that they agreed to dissociate the infrastructure package from the Build Back Better bill – which they insisted for months on passing in tandem before giving in to pressure from their leaders and of Biden himself. Democrats from all walks of life say they are alarmed by the actions of GOP-led states to restrict access to the vote, but they lack the votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican obstruction and enact federal law. Other Democratic priorities, such as overhauling gun laws, have fallen by the wayside and completely off the agenda.

“That’s why if you have a 50-50 split Senate, you can have one person or two, stop everything and that’s why people in our country should know that a 50-50 Senate sucks, and we can’t get this done, â€Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, told CNN.

Behind closed doors at lunch on Thursday, Democratic leaders tried to ease tensions. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer explained to his caucus the rest of the agenda – and made it clear that there was still work to be done to complete the Build Back Better bill, a proposal radical that would inject money into health care, housing, education, childcare and provide universal preschool services.

While Democrats are still hoping the bill passes next year, anyone can guess when it would happen and what form it would take. And as the elections draw near, legislating will only become more difficult.

“Intense,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren when asked to describe the lunch.

The Massachusetts Democrat had insisted for months that the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the social spending program move together – and said it was the deal between all 50 members of her caucus.

“The agreement among all Democrats was that we would move these two things together,†Warren said. “Obviously we’re struggling to shoot the second half of that across the finish line. ”

One of the main reasons why: Democrats don’t yet have the votes to move Biden’s plan forward.

Manchin objected to the structure of the bill, arguing that Democrats are hiding the true costs of the bill by relying on temporary programs that will be extended year on year. He wants to keep the price at $ 1.75 trillion, but says the inclusion of temporary measures – such as a one-year extension of the child tax credit extension, which expires at the end of the year. months – is not “transparent” to the public about the impact this would have on federal spending.

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Thus, he calls on the White House to include a 10-year extension of the program if it wishes to keep the tax credit, although that would force the president to abandon other priorities of the bill, which they are negotiating with the Democrats. for months. .

“We have $ 1.75 to work. And the only thing I’m saying is anything – I’m not responsible, so whatever they have to choose, they have to choose. me, “Manchin told CNN.

Manchin added, “I say 10 for 10 (years). If you’re going to do something, let’s do it, let’s commit. I’m committed. I’m not making these decisions.”

And asked on Thursday how his demands would force Democrats to make sweeping changes to a bill that had been delicately negotiated, Manchin pushed back.

“Everyone did it,” Manchin said when asked about the claim that he is the one seeking to make major changes to the bill at the eleventh hour.

Democrats say they are stunned by the late demands of Manchin, who – along with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema – have already forced their party to lower the price of the bill that originally stood at $ 3.5 trillion and change content to meet each of their many priorities.

“Apparently Manchin’s approach to this has changed a lot,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. “I don’t know where he is today or where he will be tomorrow.”

When asked how he sees where things stand, Durbin told reporters: “Frustrated and disappointed”. He added, “I can tell you that the level of emotion in our caucus over the child tax credit is very high, very high.”

While Manchin says he supports a child tax credit, he has suggested that the White House move the plan to a separate legislative path – an idea Democrats reject.

“Anyone who thinks we should cut that down and tell millions and millions of working parents that they won’t be able to raise their children with dignity – I think that will be a terrible mistake,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, when asked about Manchin.

At lunch on Thursday, Democrats discussed their way forward on both the voting rights bill and the Build Back Better measure.

However, to get a bill drafted to revise the electoral laws, there are only two ways: win over 10 Republicans who would break an obstruction, which has no chance of happening, or change the rules. obstruction to allow the measure to pass with only 51 votes. But Manchin and Sinema remain firmly opposed to changing the rules, warning that it would have serious repercussions if Democrats come back into the minority.

Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia who faces a difficult path to re-election, said it would be “irresponsible” for Democrats to leave for the year without passing a voting rights bill.

“It is a contradiction to say that we must protect the voice of the minority party in the Senate while doing nothing to protect the voices of minorities in the state of Georgia and across the country,” Warnock told CNN.

Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.