The West Virginia Democrat said he spent Monday afternoon reviewing the package and again raised concerns about how spending more money might affect inflation. He said that and the new variant of the coronavirus were among the concerns that should give Congress “cause for recess.”
“I heard a lot over the Thanksgiving holiday that the prices were high and people were very upset about it and concerned about: Is inflation going to get worse? Said Manchin.
Minutes later, after leaving a late afternoon leadership meeting with Schumer and his lieutenants, Manchin surmised, “It’s going to be a long month.”
December is shaping up to be crucial for Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress. The huge spending bill with big expansions in child care, education and climate action looks close to an inflection point in the equally divided Senate, as leaders discuss of how to remove a fault from the table. Meanwhile, Schumer’s earlier decision to postpone the review of annual defense legislation until November tests bipartisan cooperation even as Democrats push forward on their party line spending proposal.
“It’s overwhelming. It is uncertain. But I have the impression that there is no forcing mechanism like the end of the year. I’d rather these deadlines approach December 31 rather than May 31, ”said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Murphy, like many senators from both parties, said the defense bill would eventually pass given its 60-year history of annual success – it’s one of the few things Congress does in such a way reliable. Still, Democrats have said Monday’s hiccups were part of the GOP’s coordinated strategy to set the record straight as Biden’s approval crumbles.
Summarizing the GOP’s strategy, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) said, “You can never say there is a trough and they won’t go lower.”
“This is a general effort to obstruct everything that is going on, in the hope that it will reflect badly on Joe Biden,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.).
Yet despite the delay in the defense bill, Democrats are not quite ready to bring the social and climate bill to the floor as they and Republicans debate with the Senate parliamentarian over whether the bill passed by the House can survive the rules of the Senate. On the most immediate chopping block is a new immigration provision, which must directly affect the budget to stay, and federal paid holidays, which Manchin opposes including in the reconciliation bill.
At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the leverage. He rallied his members to block a vote on defense policy legislation, accusing Schumer of “poor planning” and of sticking to “political timetables.” Schumer blamed the heist on “Republican dysfunction” after the Senate GOP rejected a proposed deal on amendment votes two weeks ago.
“It’s incompetence to handle the bill,” retorted Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). “We can do it this week. They have not yet decided to act together on reconciliation, so it is not a question of delaying this. “
Even as they waged a war of words on Monday, Schumer and McConnell quietly coordinate to raise the debt ceiling. Schumer has long resisted McConnell’s demand that Democrats unilaterally raise the debt ceiling through the obscure budget reconciliation process, which would result in at least one additional marathon voting session on the amendments, known as voting -a-rama.
But Manchin, the deciding vote, said Democrats will likely have to go that route – provided Republicans don’t make the process as painful as possible.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that we meet the debt ceiling. And Democrats are in control now, so we want to make sure we do it and do it right, ”Manchin said.
Schumer and McConnell met earlier in November, and Manchin said the two leaders were still negotiating. Yet, for now, McConnell and Schumer are revealing little about their debt limit negotiations, leaving their respective caucuses to guess how Congress could avoid the looming potential of a default.
Asked about the way forward following a weekly leaders’ meeting, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (RS.D.) replied: “This was held close to the vest by the leader. “
Lest anyone who thinks McConnell could once again provide voices for the GOP to push forward a debt limit increase like he did in October, Thune was firmer: “All I can tell you, is that the Democrats will have to deliver the votes. “