But even as multiple policy disputes remain, House Democratic leaders and progressives now are ready to speed toward passage of a bill that doesn’t have Manchin’s blessing and thus faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.
The fluid nature of the House bill comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer publicly presses for the Senate to take up the social spending bill as early as Nov. 15, provided the House can pass it in the next few days. That timeline could slip, however, given the Senate’s other priorities and Manchin’s persistent calls for a strategic pause.
As he left the Capitol on Thursday afternoon for a weeklong recess, Manchin said he doesn’t “control the clock” while Schumer weighs putting the Biden-blessed bill on the floor ASAP. Asked if he would support his leader’s schedule, Manchin got in his car and then shrugged theatrically.
Earlier in the day, Manchin said on MSNBC that Democrats should “slow down” on the social spending bill and “wait and see if inflation is transitory.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also signaled in an interview that her negotiations with Manchin on paid leave are not done: “There’s still an open door.”
Some Senate Democrats are privately worried that talks could drag further once the climate and safety net legislation comes over from the House, which left one caucus member, speaking candidly but anonymously, “very concerned.” Any prolonged Senate discussions on the social spending bill would run up against the chamber’s other deadlines, including the Dec. 3 end date for current government funding, the expiring debt-limit patch and the need to pass the annual defense bill.
“We’re trying to avoid that, obviously,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) of a lengthy back-and-forth with the House. “There should be an alignment so that we don’t have to have a third chapter to this.”
Even liberal senators acknowledge that the House’s bill isn’t the final word. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), who endorsed House progressives’ decision to keep the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure plan and social spending legislation linked, said Thursday that the House version of the latter bill was subject to change.
“Each entity has its own role to play,” Sanders said. “Obviously the House will do its job, and we have to do our job.”