In a new letter to Senate colleagues, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fingered Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) as a cause of “deep discontent and frustration” but promised to at least force senators to vote on the record for both reconciliation and voting rights.
“This session has also led to moments of deep discontent and frustration,” he wrote. “That frustration was evident in the past week as nearly all of us were disappointed by the decision to delay floor consideration of the Build Back Better Act because Senator Manchin could not come to an agreement with the president.”
“However, neither that delay, nor other recent pronouncements, will deter us from continuing to try to find a way forward,” he added.
In a Sunday interview that rocked the political world, Manchin appeared on Fox News to announce his opposition to the current version of the reconciliation bill. Manchin cited his usual smorgasbord of factors that have little to do with the bill itself: inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, the national debt.
The White House responded with a statement accusing Manchin of negotiating in bad faith and “breaching his commitments” to President Joe Biden and the other Democratic senators.
While Manchin, in occasional conjunction with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), has been the consistent antagonist to the rest of the caucus’ attempts to craft a sweeping bill packed with programs to alleviate social ills and mitigate climate change, Sunday’s announcement was his most definitive oppositional stance yet. The bill has already been whittled down to less than a third of its original size and seen key programs — the Clean Energy Performance Program, paid family leave, free community college — axed at Manchin’s demand.
Schumer, in his Monday letter to senators, vowed to remain undeterred. His message was sprinkled with potshots at Manchin.
“Senators should be aware 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,” he wrote. “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.”
Some have speculated that while Manchin has stuck a knife into the ribs of the historic and transformative package most Democrats wanted, there may be some leeway for a much smaller bill featuring only a couple of programs.
Schumer also promised consideration of voting rights legislation as early as the first week back from the holiday recess.
“I believe our constituents deserve to know which Senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which Senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders’ intentions,” he wrote, jabbing filibuster-defenders Manchin and Sinema.
Democrats will have a special virtual caucus meeting to discuss the Manchin-caused implosion of the agenda on Tuesday evening — as Schumer noted in a description that seems to capture the political moment at large for Democrats: “the longest night of the year.”
Read the letter here: