UNITED STATES NEWS

Beyond Manchin: Dems’ $2T bill faces Senate gauntlet

Nov 24, 2021, 7:00 PM | Updated: Nov 25, 2021, 11:56 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — It took half a year but Democrats have driven President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion package of social and climate initiatives through the House. It gets no easier in the Senate, where painful Republican amendments, restrictive rules and Joe Manchin lurk.

Facing unbroken GOP opposition, Democrats finally reached agreement among themselves and eased the compromise through the House on Nov. 19. One Democrat voted no in a chamber they control by just three votes.

They’re negotiating further changes for a final version they hope will win approval by Christmas in the 50-50 Senate, where they’ll need every Democratic vote. House passage of the altered bill would still be needed.

The gauntlet they face:

BRIGHT SIDE FOR DEMOCRATS

Yes, just weeks ago the bill’s price tag was $3.5 trillion over 10 years. It passed the House at around $2 trillion and will likely fall further in the Senate.

And yes, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have already forced their party to constrain the measure’s size and ambition. Manchin, at least, wants to cut still further.

But while they’ve enraged progressives wanting a more robust measure, neither moderate senator has signaled a desire to blow up the party’s top legislative priority. Both have held months of talks with party leaders, suggesting each wants an agreement, though one reflecting their views.

Things can still implode in the Senate, where debate will begin no earlier than the week of Dec. 6. But Democrats retain a strong chance of enacting their plans for spending increases and tax cuts making child care, health coverage, education and housing more affordable and slowing global warming, largely financed with higher levies on the rich and big companies.

GOP AMENDMENTS

Here’s one place where Republicans could cause real problems for Democrats.

After debating the legislation for up to 20 hours, senators can introduce limitless numbers of amendments and force votes with little debate. The so-called vote-a-rama can drag through the night.

GOP goals will be twofold. They can force changes weakening the bill by winning over just one Democrat. And they can offer amendments that lose but gain ammunition for next year’s midterm elections by putting Democrats on record against popular-sounding ideas.

The 2,100-page bill offers plenty of targets.

Want to accuse Democrats of driving up gasoline and home-heating prices? Dare them to oppose an amendment blocking new fees on petroleum and natural gas facilities with excessive emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas contributor.

A GOP move to erase the measure’s higher tax deductions for state and local taxes could let them accuse Democrats of protecting the rich, the chief beneficiaries of those deductions. Past Republican tax cuts have prominently helped high-end earners.

Amendments could be designed to portray Democrats as offering federal benefits to immigrants in the U.S. without legal authorization, few of whom qualify for such help. Or Republicans could propose giving parents more authority on school curricula, an issue that helped elect Republican Glenn Youngkin in this month’s Virginia gubernatorial race.

SENATE RULES, PESKY BUT DANGEROUS

Democrats are using a special process that would let them approve the bill by simple majority, not the usual 60 votes that would otherwise let Republicans kill the legislation.

But there’s a price: Its provisions must be driven chiefly by budgetary considerations, not sweeping policy changes. Opponents can ask the chamber’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, to decide if a section violates that requirement, and if it does it nearly always falls from the bill.

Democrats’ most imperiled priority may be immigration.

The House bill would let millions of migrants in the U.S. since before 2011 without permanent legal status get permits to live and work in the U.S. for up to 10 years. MacDonough has recently said two previous Democratic immigration proposals violated Senate rules.

Republicans might also challenge some provisions letting the government curb prescription drug prices.

THE MANCHIN FACTOR

Senate changes to the bill seem inevitable, largely thanks to Manchin, one of Congress’ more conservative Democrats.

He’s already helped force Biden to drop initial plans to create free community college, provide new dental and vision Medicare benefits and to fine energy producers that don’t wean themselves off carbon-heavy fuels. That was the pillar of Biden’s blueprint for combating climate change.

Now Manchin seems poised to force removal of the bill’s four weeks annually of paid, required leave for family and medical reasons. That $200 billion item is prized by progressives.

Manchin, whose state is a top coal producer, frowns on some remaining provisions aimed at spurring a switch to green energy. He’s questioned providing some new benefits without imposing income limits. Along with his repeated expressions of concern about inflation, which some say the measure’s infusion of spending would aggravate, the price tag seems headed downward.

THE SINEMA ENIGMA

Sinema helped whittle the package’s costs. She’s blocked Democrats from raising tax rates on wealthy Americans and corporations, proposals many like as potent revenue raisers and symbols of class equity. Democrats found other ways to boost levies on those groups.

But the Arizonan seldom details her demands publicly, making it hard to read her goals moving forward. She recently told Politico that she opposes tax increases that can hurt the economy, but unlike Manchin considers the bill’s environment provisions “its most important part.”

OTHER SENATE CHANGES

The House raised the current $10,000 yearly cap on allowable state and local tax deductions to $80,000, helping win votes from Democrats in high-tax, mostly blue states.

But nonpartisan outside groups calculate that the change would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., have discussed denying the tax break to the very highest earners.

While the House bill strengthens the government’s ability to curb pharmaceutical prices, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has talked about going further. The House language is a compromise that’s more modest than many Democrats preferred.

The progressive Sanders, Manchin’s ideological opposite, says he’s still trying to “strengthen” the bill on climate change, Medicare, drug prices and taxing the rich.

With Democrats hoping to finally pass the bill, Wyden’s and Sanders’ leverage seems limited.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the g...
Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing Memphis officers beating a Black man was made public Friday after they were charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols.
2 days ago
Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's plan to ...
Kevin Stone

Lawsuits keeping over 300,000 Arizonans from getting student loan relief

Lawsuits are preventing more than 300,000 Arizonans from having some or all of their student debt dismissed, the Biden administration said Friday.
2 days ago
FILE -  A Goodyear tire sits on display at a tire shop on Feb. 12, 2014, in South Euclid, Ohio. A f...
Associated Press

Arizona lawyer subpoenaed in criminal investigation of Goodyear tires

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires.
3 days ago
Following days of rain, floodwaters cover streets in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif....
Associated Press

Atmospheric rivers in California boost water allocation for cities

Public water agencies in California will be getting more water from the state because of recent heavy rain.
3 days ago
(Brian Munoz/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)...
Associated Press

FDA declines to regulate CBD; calls on Congress for fix

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements under the agency’s current structure and called on Congress to create new rules for the massive and growing market. The marijuana-derived products have become increasingly popular in lotions, tinctures and foods, while their […]
3 days ago
FILE - An employee works in the battery assembly hall at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., ...
Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession. Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — […]
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Beyond Manchin: Dems’ $2T bill faces Senate gauntlet