- Manchin may be about to hand his party a lump of coal when it comes to passing Biden’s spending bill.
- He’s not onboard with passing it by Christmas, risking a lapse in monthly checks to families.
- “No question that it would be a blow to lower-income and middle-class households,” one expert said.
Senate Democrats are wishing for a holiday gift in the form of approving President Joe Biden’s $US2 ($AU3) trillion domestic spending package by Christmas. But Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia seems readier to hand his own party a thick lump of coal instead.
The West Virginia Democrat is reportedly expressing skepticism to his Senate colleagues about whether they’ll be able to approve pass the Build Back Better legislation this year, CNN reported. It’s significant given that all 50 Senate Democrats must band together to clear the bill in the evenly divided Senate over what’s likely to be unanimous GOP opposition.
He’s not committing to the legislation, suggesting more work needs to be done to iron out the finer details. “I wouldn’t have any idea how I’m going to vote until I walk in,” Manchin told CNN’s Manu Raju departing the Capitol.
Manchin’s reluctance to back the bill could capsize the swift timetable that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York originally envisioned to wrap everything up and deliver Biden a major win going into 2022, a crucial midterm election year. Depending on how long Manchin drags his feet, passage of the bill may slip into next year — a possibility raised on Tuesday by Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chair of the House Ways and Means panel.
It risks an abrupt halt of monthly child tax credit payments that tens of millions of families are relying on to cover expenses like rent, groceries, childcare, and school supplies. The Internal Revenue Service will distribute the final monthly payments on December 15 and families will receive the other half at tax time.
“No question that it would be a blow to lower-income and middle-class households,” Andy Boardman, a research assistant at the Urban Institute, said in an interview. “Folks are depending on this money, and it’s helping them. It has become a pretty significant piece of family household budgets.”
The House bill renews the bulked-up child tax credit payments for another year. It provides up to $US300 ($AU428) a month per child age 5 and under, or $US3,600 ($AU5,141) annually. For children between ages 6 and 17, families can receive $US250 ($AU357) each month, or $US3,000 ($AU4,284) yearly. And it would lock in the ability for the vast majority of American families to get the government cash every month, regardless of whether they file taxes.
Asked by Insider on Tuesday, Manchin didn’t commit to approving the child tax credit as it was laid out in the House bill, only calling it a “work in progress.” That raised the prospect of changes to that measure.
“I think it’s extraordinarily important to keep this program on track,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon told reporters on Thursday about the possibility of a sudden lapse in checks to families.
Wyden added it was the “overwhelming view” of Senate Democrats that it is “priority business” to pass the Build Back Better Act this year.
Manchin may not be the only obstacle standing between Democrats and their Christmas deadline. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona isn’t onboard with the package yet, either. She told CNN in an interview which aired on Thursday that she was negotiating in “good faith” with other Democrats — and not in public.
It’s possible the IRS can move swiftly to prevent a lapse in payments by mid-January. The third wave of $US1,400 ($AU1,999) direct payments started landing in bank accounts within days of Biden approving the stimulus law earlier this year.