When asked Friday about the timing for final approval of the defense policy bill, Senate Armed Forces Chairman Jack Reed (DI) laughed, “We’ll have to wait until we get to the vote.”
The defense policy law, the first on the to-do list, could take up much of the first week of December. The chamber must also fund the government after December 3. According to that timeline, Democrats don’t expect the Senate to record the social spending bill in the second week of December at the earliest.
And that’s assuming Manchin (DW.Va.) agrees to move on by then. Earlier this week, the chief centrist did not specify whether he would vote “yes” to start the debate. With an evenly divided Senate, Democrats cannot pass legislation without Manchin’s support.
“It will be ready by the time we leave in December,” Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) predicted Friday. “We’ll be back, we’ll try to finish the [defense policy bill]… and then we move on to [the social spending bill]… This is going to be a wild December.”
The timing for signing Biden’s legislation will also depend on when the Senate MP will complete the so-called “Byrd Bath” process, where she determines whether key parts of the bill will have direct budgetary impact and therefore provide the Senate with a simple majority can pass. Democrats will begin presenting their arguments to the MP next week, according to a Democratic aide.
Several provisions in the bill in the Senate are expected to change or be scrapped entirely. House Democrats have included a provision for paid family leave despite Manchin’s opposition to including the policy in the package. And the bill’s immigration reform sections have yet to be approved by the MP, who has scrapped other attempts by Democrats to include immigration measures.
Senate Democrats are also divided over the House’s adoption of a provision raising the limit on local and state tax deductions known as SALT, which primarily affects expensive states, such as New York, New Jersey and California. That adds up to a significant tax break for high-income people, who take anger out on progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“I hope Bernie changes the SALT tax,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), adding that, excluding immigration reform and SALT, “90 percent of the bill is locked up.”
The House’s approval of the social spending bill came after months of negotiations between the White House, House progressives Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). House Democrats acknowledged Friday that changes to the legislation were inevitable at this point, meaning the House would have to vote on the bill again.
“We’ve done what we think we can do,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (DS.C.). “The Senate will do what it thinks it can do. And we will come together on behalf of the American people and try to have a coordinated approach as we move into the future.”
Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.