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Sen. Joe Manchin walking through the Capitol basement on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Democrats will conclude the year without delivering on President Biden's top priority: his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better agenda.

Why it matters: As predictable as that outcome may have been, it still has consequences for the party. Beyond the political ramifications of failing to meet a promised deadline, the chief concern is that dragging out negotiations will result in a smaller package during a midterm year — or no package at all.

  • In Congress, and particularly a 50-50 split Senate, taking advantage of urgency is vital.
  • Pushing action off to 2022 is a buzz-kill.

What we're hearing: Democratic leaders are already looking at setting new deadlines in early 2022 to renew that sense of urgency.

  • But the problems they face now — including pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on the child tax credit and overall price tag, as well as disagreements over the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT) — will likely follow them into the new year.

What they're saying: "My team and I are having ongoing discussions with Senator Manchin; that work will continue next week," Biden said in a statement on Thursday. "We will advance this work together over the days and weeks ahead."

What's next: The Senate is now attempting to make the push to change Senate rules — thus making it easier to pass voting rights legislation — front and center. A breakthrough on a potential deal remains far off.

  • Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with a series of Senate Democrats via Zoom on Tuesday.
  • The group included Manchin, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), according to a person familiar with the call.

Tester told Axios it was a productive meeting but said Manchin “isn’t there yet."

  • Klobuchar said Biden has been very engaged, and said he's being "realistic" about what they can expect.
  • She said he also knows there are members — read: Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — who don’t want to mess directly with the filibuster.

The only real, remaining issue between members and their holiday recess: approving a series of Biden's nominees.

  • Schumer is pushing through a package of 21 judicial, ambassadorial and other nominees, and may try for more in a last-ditch attempt to use senators' eagerness to get home as fuel for chipping away at the historically large slate of officials they need to confirm.
  • GOP leaders were hopeful early Thursday they could reach a deal to help speed up the voting process.
  • However, Schumer and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) failed to break their stalemate over nominees. Cruz is delaying action on more than 50 nominees, using it as leverage to secure a vote on Nord Stream 2 sanctions.
  • If no deal is reached, senators could be forced to stay the weekend, and potentially into early next week, to vote through each nominee after a lengthy debating procedure forced by Cruz.

Go deeper

King family leads Arizona rally to mobilize support for voting rights bills

Martin Luther King III addresses a "Let's Finish the Job for the People" rally near the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Family members of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. honored his birthday Saturday with a rally in Arizona to mobilize support for voting rights legislation.

Driving the news: The rally comes days after Martin Luther King III admonished Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Thursday, saying history will remember her "unkindly" for voicing her opposition to abolishing the filibuster to pass major voting rights bills.

Updated 5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

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