Schumer vows to keep Senate focused on Build Back Better 'until we get something done'

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The Senate majority leader also plans to take up voting rights legislation in January.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that the Senate will spend January trying to pass a revised version of the Build Back Better plan and advance voting rights protections. The announcement comes after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he would not back the current climate and caregiving infrastructure package.

In a letter to the Democratic caucus, Schumer wrote that the Senate "will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television."

"We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done," he promised.

Schumer also pledged to again bring up voting rights legislation — currently being filibustered by the GOP minority — and to push to change the rules to stop minority obstruction if the Republicans "continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill."

The Democratic majority in the House passed its version of the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan last month over unanimous GOP opposition. That package would have invested billions in clean energy, climate change, child care, health care, affordable housing, paid leave, and home care infrastructure while reducing prescription drug costs and raising taxes on corporations and those earning $400,000 annually.

Senate Democrats hoped to move on the bill by Christmas, but doing so would have required unanimous agreement within their caucus.

Manchin announced Sunday that he would not back the current plan, citing concerns about its cost. "I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation," he wrote, adding that he will "continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the needs of all Americans and do so in a way that does not risk our nation's independence, security and way of life."

Rep. Suzan DeBene (D-WA), chair of the New Democrat Coalition, suggested Sunday that moderate Democrats would push for a new approach to the legislation, and would focus on passing a few major provisions rather than the entire package. She specifically mentioned the importance of expanding the Affordable Care Act, addressing climate change, and extending the expanded Child Tax Credit, which expires at the end of 2021.

White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain praised the New Democrat Coalition's efforts. Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden suggested a similar approach.

On Sunday, Goldman Sachs Group predicted that without Build Back Better, the U.S. economy will grow significantly less in 2022.

And while Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have not yet embraced filibuster reform, it would only take a simple majority in the Senate to exempt the proposed voting rights legislation from the filibuster.

With several GOP-controlled states making it harder to vote, civil rights activists say federal action is urgently needed.

On Wednesday, Give Us the Ballot co-founder Martin Luther King III tweeted: "No celebration without legislation. On January 17, join me to honor my father and the #MLKLegacy as we call on Congress and the White House to eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster and pass voting rights to protect millions of Black and Brown voters."

The Senate is set to resume legislative business on Jan. 3.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.