Jul 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats moving full steam ahead on Manchin's spending bill

Manchin and Schumer

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) (left) with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House leaders are preparing to call lawmakers back to Congress the week of Aug. 8 to pass the Senate's $740 billion climate and deficit reduction package, according to lawmakers and aides.

Why it matters: The current timeline speaks to the Democrats' confidence that they can pass a reconciliation package this August and hand President Biden a victory on some — but not all — of his priorities.

  • But the velocity also betrays an unspoken concern in the party that if they wait too long, the delicate deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will turn to dust.

What they're saying: "It's been a momentous 24 hours here in Congress. A legislative 1-2 punch that the American people rarely see," Schumer gleefully told reporters Thursday.

  • Schumer was also celebrating the House’s passage of the $280 billion China competition bill, which Republican leaders tried to derail in the eleventh hour.
  • "Every one of my Democratic senators has my phone number and I talk to them directly. That's how you keep a caucus that runs from [Sen. Bernie] Sanders to Manchin together. Conversation, not email. Talking."

The big picture: Passing a reconciliation bill that addresses climate change, prescription drug reform and health insurance still faces obstacles and isn't a foregone conclusion.

  • As it has been for 18 months, the Democrats' biggest challenge is math. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has yet to announce her support or opposition, can still scuttle the deal — like any single Senate Democrat.
  • In the House, the margin is so narrow that four Democrats could also sink the package. But lawmakers who had previously threatened to vote against any package that didn't address state and local tax reform (SALT) signaled they were unlikely to oppose the bill.
  • The emerging package, which raises more than $300 billion by setting a minimum corporate tax rate at 15%, will likely face a barrage of last-minute attacks from the business community.
  • The pharmaceutical industry is also fighting the plan to wring $288 billion from drug companies by allowing Medicare to directly negotiate the price of prescription drugs.

The bottom line: On a day when the Commerce Department reported that GDP contracted for the second straight quarter, President Biden was eager to talk politics over economics.

  • "This bill is far from perfect. It’s a compromise. But it is — it's often how progress is made: by compromises,” he said at the White House.
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