US Senate Plans Vote on Safety Net Legislation Before Christmas

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer laid out a tight timetable Monday for his Democratic colleagues to vote on and approve a roughly $2 trillion package to revamp U.S. health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws before Christmas.

The House of Representatives has already narrowly approved a version of the measure, but Senate Democrats are planning to make some changes. If they reach agreement, Democrats then will need all 50 of their votes in the 100-member chamber, plus the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, to pass the legislation because the 50-member Republican caucus uniformly opposes it.

If the package, proposed by President Joe Biden as his Build Back Better plan, clears the Senate with changes, the House would need to vote again on it before sending it to Biden for his signature.

Schumer warned his Democratic colleagues that for the measure to be approved by the Senate before the Christmas holiday on December 25, along with other must-pass legislation, they will have to work “more long days and nights and potentially weekends.”

If approved, the $2 trillion proposal would greatly expand the role of the national government in the lives of Americans by perhaps the most in five decades.

The measure would expand health care insurance benefits for older Americans, add new money to fight climate change, establish universal prekindergarten instruction and offer new assistance for low-income families, all financed through higher taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations.

But two centrist Democratic lawmakers, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have balked at some of the House-passed provisions, forcing Democratic leaders to engage in protracted negotiations with them to win an agreement.

Manchin has said the additional government spending could add to higher costs for consumers, fueling the biggest surge in U.S. inflation in three decades. Biden has contended that with the additional tax revenue and tighter tax collection measures to catch tax cheaters, the measure will be fully paid for.

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