Schumer vows action on social policy, voting rights bills despite setback
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday vowed to vote on President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan early next year despite opposition from a key Democratic senator that drew White House rebuke, and to bring forward voting rights legislation.
"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," Schumer wrote in a letter to colleagues.
On Sunday, moderate Democrat Senator Joe Manchin dealt a potentially fatal blow to Biden's $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill, telling Fox News he would not vote for the measure..
The Build Back Better plan codifies many of Biden's signature domestic policies, aiming to expand the social safety net and tackle climate change. Many Democrats have said the bill is essential to the party's chances in next year's midterm elections.
A vote would force Manchin to publicly record his objection to the bill ahead of the elections, in which Democrats seek to keep control of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives.
Manchin's comments prompted an angry response from the White House after months of negotiations. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Sunday said the Biden administration would find a way to move forward with the legislation in 2022.
Still, it was not immediately clear how or if lawmakers could salvage the full bill without Manchin's vote in a 50-50 divided chamber that needs every Democrat on board, or whether parts of it could be adopted.
"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," Schumer wrote.
Schumer also said Congress' upper chamber would consider voting rights legislation soon after returning from its holiday recess in January and would look at changing procedural rules if Republicans "continue to abuse the filibuster" to block the bill.
"If the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?" he wrote.
Manchin, who won re-election in a deeply conservative state that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, has also balked at eliminating the filibuster to take up the voting rights legislation as has fellow moderate Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
Progressive Democrats blasted Manchin following his Sunday comments and have for months urged action on Biden's campaign promises, including voting rights.
Elements of the social policy plan – such as universal preschool, an enhanced child-care tax credit and larger healthcare subsidies – are popular with voters, polling shows.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Pravin Char and Frank Jack Daniel)
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