Democrats will try to pick up the pieces on the Build Back Better Act
Now, Democratic leaders have to figure out what happens next. They are vowing not to give up, but it’s not yet clear what Democrats might be able to accomplish.
Biden has said that he still thinks “there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done” and has insisted that he and Manchin will “get something” finished after the West Virginia moderate undercut the President’s agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Democrats “will not let this opportunity pass.”
Democratic leaders plan to keep the pressure on. In the wake of Manchin’s announcement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated to his caucus that he plans to push ahead with a vote on the legislation that will force Manchin to go on the record on the Senate floor.
“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 told members of his caucus in a letter on December 20.
“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,” he wrote.
One option Democrats may look at is whether they can try to pass any of the priorities contained within the Build Back Better Act, even if it means advancing them alone or as part of a significantly scaled back version of the legislation.
When asked in a recent interview on Fox News if Democrats are open to scaling back the bill or passing various pieces on a stand-alone basis, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland said “that’s a strategy decision that is being negotiated. We are open to a way to reach the finish line.”
Progressives in the House in the meantime have called on Biden to turn to executive action while lawmakers try to reach a deal.
“The White House must continue to act on a parallel track by using the President’s incredibly powerful tool of executive action,” the Progressive Caucus said in a statement in late December. “The legislative approach, while essential, has no certainty of timing or results — and we simply cannot wait to deliver tangible relief to people that they can feel and will make a difference in their lives and livelihoods.”
Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, has also made clear that House progressives would not accept a smaller version of the Build Back Better Act, putting down a clear guard rail as negotiations start to resume.
“No one should think that we are going to be satisfied with an even smaller package that leaves people behind or refuses to tackle critical issues like climate change,” Jayapal said in late December.
Senate Democrats to try again on voting legislation but face uphill battle
Schumer has also told members of his caucus to get ready for the Senate to try again on voting legislation in the new year — but Democrats face major obstacles that threaten to doom the effort as a result of Republican opposition and limitations they face due to their narrow majority and constraints from Senate rules.
In his letter to Senate Democrats, Schumer wrote, “after the 117th Congress resumes in January, the Senate will consider voting rights legislation, as early as the first week back.”
Schumer indicated in his letter that Democrats may need to try to change Senate rules as a result.
“If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation,” he wrote.
Manchin told CNN in mid-December that any rules changes would have to be done on a bipartisan basis, meaning he is still opposed to nuking the filibuster along party lines to pass voting legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently told reporters that “yes” he is convinced that no Republicans will engage in talks with Democrats to change Senate rules to do a voting rights bill.
House January 6 select committee to continue investigation
The House select committee created to investigate the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol will continue its work in the new year. It is not yet clear when the investigation will be complete, but Democrats may face growing pressure to reach a conclusion as the 2022 midterm elections near.
The committee has issued a long list of subpoenas in an effort to find out information and seek testimony — and Democrats have taken steps to show there will be consequences for non-compliance.
CNN’s Ali Zaslav, Manu Raju and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.