Schumer wants to pass Build Back Better as quickly as possible

November 15, 2021

Schumer wants to pass Build Back Better as quickly as possible

Telephone tag: President Biden's massive social spending legislation hasn't yet passed the House. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is already telling House Democrats he wants to get it through the Senate — quickly.

In a phone call last Tuesday with progressives, Schumer laid out how he plans to get the climate, child-care and health-care package through the upper chamber, three people familiar with the call told The Early. He urged Congressional Progressive Caucus members on the call to pass the bill as rapidly as possible so the Senate can take it up.

“He explained that if we don't get this over to the Senate very quickly, there's a real danger of it pushing deep into the end of the year and that's, of course, where everything is piled up in the Senate and not a place we want to be,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told The Early.

The Senate is expected to rework the House version of the bill, and Schumer identified the paid leave provisions in it — which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added back into the bill after they were left out of a bipartisan framework — as one potential casualty, according to a person familiar with the call. (The comment was hardly surprising: While Schumer supports paid leave, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has been vocal about his opposition to including it in the bill, and Senate Democrats can't afford to lose his vote.)

More than defending any specific policy, though, some progressives' top priority now is passing the bill as fast as possible — and definitely before the end of the year.

“The Senate can take long periods of time as it tries to make its own mark, pursue its favorite policy tools, etc.,” Huffman said. “And we just don't have time for that.”

Additionally, Schumer on Sunday sent a “Dear Colleague” letter updating senators on the work Democrats are doing to ensure the bill complies with the Senate’s reconciliation rules. They'll start the process of conferring with the Senate parliamentarian — sometimes known as the “Byrd bath” — this week to determine which provisions can be included and which can't.

“Timing of consideration of the [Build Back Better Act] in the Senate will largely depend on when the House sends us the bill and when CBO finalizes their scores for all of the committees, which are needed to complete the 'Byrd Bath' process,” Schumer wrote.

Mounting pressure

House Democrats are hustling to pass the Build Back Better Act due to a deal struck Nov. 5, when five House moderates — Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Ed Case (D-Hawaii) — promised to vote for the bill no later than this week as long as data from the Congressional Budget Office confirms the bill is paid for. The pledge convinced nearly all House progressives to vote for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, which Biden will sign into law today.

Now progressives are planning a campaign to pressure Schumer not to let the legislation stall in the Senate.

“We're gonna need to be part of a collective sense of urgency from the entire country, from climate and environmental groups, from social justice groups, from the White House,” Huffman said. “And the Senate is going to need to hear from all of us very loudly that we don't have infinite time to deliberate and tinker here. We gotta get this done.”

Schumer, another progressive lawmaker told The Early, is “facing his own political dynamics in the state of New York,” where he's up for reelection next year. He's maneuvered for months to insulate himself from any potential primary challenges.

“I think he wants to be viewed as somebody who delivered the Build Back Better agenda, with the climate change provisions, child tax credit, largest investment in housing and public housing in the history of this country since World War II,” said the lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Schumer's call with the CPC.

“We have to keep focus on Schumer and the pressure for him to get it done,” the lawmaker added.

By:  Theodoric Meyer and Jacqueline Alemany
Source: The Washington Post