The Sausage Making: Senate Democrats Wrap Up 2021 On A Sour Note

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walks to a caucus meeting with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. As legislative action for... WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walks to a caucus meeting with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. As legislative action for the Build Back Better act remains stalled, Senators are voting on judicial and diplomatic nominees ahead of the Holiday recess. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS

Your intermittent briefing on negotiations over the reconciliation bill.

The year is ending for Senate Democrats on a note befitting the last few aggravating months. 

With Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) many demands unmet, the Senate is acknowledging the reality that it will have to shelve the reconciliation package until next year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) Christmas deadline will come and go. 

The Senate parliamentarian delivered to Democrats another lump of coal late Thursday, shooting down their third consecutive attempt to craft an immigration reform measure that can slip by the Byrd Rule and make it into the reconciliation package. 

“We strongly disagree with the Senate parliamentarian’s interpretation of our immigration proposal, and we will pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act,” a host of senators, led by Schumer, said in a statement. But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a leader on the immigration push, told reporters soon after the opinion dropped that there is no Plan D “at this point.” 

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President Joe Biden promised future progress on both reconciliation and voting rights legislation in a statement. He wasn’t coy about pointing to the root of the problem, dropping Manchin’s name three times in the brief remarks. 

“My team and I are having ongoing discussions with Senator Manchin; that work will continue next week,” he said of the reconciliation bill. “It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote.”

“At the same time, we must also press forward on voting rights legislation, and make progress on this as quickly as possible,” he added. “I had a productive conversation today with several Senators about how we can get this vital legislation passed.”

Reasons To Be Merry 

  • There’s no doubt about it, this is not how Democrats wanted to end the year. But there are some glimmers of hope in the December darkness. 
  • If news of attempts to push Manchin to support voting rights gives you extreme déjà vu, you’re not alone. But the senator reportedly showed “engagement” at a recent meeting with a Senate rules expert, and expressed some receptiveness to filibuster reform as a cure to partisan gridlock. 
  • Schumer told reporters Friday morning that he’d just left a meeting on voting rights attended by many senators (including Manchin) and Marty Paone and Marty Gold, two Senate rules experts from opposite sides of the aisle. Paone is slated to join the Democrats’ caucus meeting later today as well.
  • Senate Democrats are having immense success on another facet of the chamber’s work that’s flown a bit beneath the radar: nominees. Biden is set to outpace then-President Donald Trump in first-year judicial nominees, and Schumer teed up a couple dozen executive branch picks to get through before the chamber departs for the holidays. 
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