Schumer aims to start debate on Biden agenda in mid-November, setting up showdown with Manchin


(CNN)Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aims to put President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion social safety net spending plan on the Senate floor by mid-November, setting up a potential clash with his most important swing vote, Joe Manchin, who has raised serious concerns about the proposal and called on Congress not to rush the process.

“We hope the House to pass it soon and hope to begin debate on it on the 15th,” Schumer said Tuesday, referring to the proposal to expand health care access, address the climate crisis, provide aid to families and deliver on other key liberal priorities.

The timeline outlined by Schumer comes as top Democrats are racing to try to finalize a deal on the package and pass it out of the House as soon as this week. But Manchin, whose vote is critical to Senate passage, has continued to dig in over opposition to key elements of the plan and told CNN on Tuesday that he thinks it could take “a while” to finalize and enact the package.

    On timing, Manchin told CNN on Tuesday, “I just think it’s going to take quite a while,” reiterating his longstanding call for Democrats not to rush the process.

      “You’re talking about overhauling the entire tax code. That is tremendous. And there needs to be input,” he said. “We’re not in a rush right now.”

        While Democrats hope to expand social safety net programs by enacting the legislation, Manchin has been wary of doing that, arguing that would be irresponsible without adequately covering costs and ensuring existing programs remain solvent for those who rely on them.

        On Monday, Manchin dug in and delivered a blow to party leaders hoping for a swift deal by warning he could vote against the social safety net bill. The West Virginia Democrat said he won’t support the package without “greater clarity” about the impact it will have on the economy and the national debt and took aim at his party for using what he described as accounting “gimmicks” to outline pay-for mechanisms.

          Democrats plan to use a process called budget reconciliation to pass the bill in the Senate, which would allow Democrats to enact the plan without GOP votes. It would require total unity, however, in support of the proposal from all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, including Manchin.

          The party is under intense pressure to deliver on Biden’s domestic agenda as negotiations over the legislative package — and a vote on a separate infrastructure bill — have been held up amid disputes between moderates and progressives. As a result, leaders in Congress are eager to charge ahead with votes as soon as possible.

          Unresolved issues and a timeline for Senate action

          If the bill passes the House this week, Schumer said next week would be used to ensure the bill complies with the strict budget rules of the Senate and passes the parliamentarian’s review — known in the Capitol as the “Byrd bath,” named after the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who came up with the rule to stop either side from abusing the reconciliation process.

          “We hope the House to pass it soon and hope to begin debate on it on the 15th, after the parliamentary scrub, and then, of course, there are the Byrd rule contests as well,” Schumer said, laying out the procedures that they must go through in order to open debate.

          It’s not yet clear when the House will move to pass the bill or when legislative text will be finalized, however.

          A handful of House moderates — led by Hawaii Rep. Ed Case, a leader of the Blue Dogs — want 72 hours to review the $1.75 trillion bill and a full cost estimate by the Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office before any House action.

          They are warning they won’t support the bill without it, according to a person familiar with matter. This could push the bill’s consideration into at least next week if they hold onto that demand.

          In the meantime, Democrats appear to be making progress toward resolving some of the issues that have been sticking points.

          Schumer on Tuesday announced a deal on prescription drug pricing’s inclusion in the bill, noting that the White House and key moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have told him that they support it, following Sinema’s earlier pushback to measures dealing with this issue.

          But there are still unresolved issues. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget committee, is still pushing to expand Medicare beyond what was included in President Biden’s framework for the social safety net plan, even as Manchin has continued to make clear he has concerns over such an expansion.

          “There is a bill out there, a reconciliation bill, which I think is widely supported by the American people. In the coming days, I think we’ve got to make it stronger. We have to make sure that we finally have Medicare negotiate prescription drug costs, that we expand Medicare to include dental and vision, that we demand that the wealthiest people in this country start paying their fair share of taxes,” Sanders said. Biden’s framework included an expansion of Medicare to include hearing benefits, not dental and vision.

            “But this process cannot go on week after week, month after month, it’s finally got to come to an end,” Sanders said.

            This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

            CNN’s Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.