What's next for Biden's social spending bill: The Senate struggle

What's next for Biden's social spending bill: The Senate struggle

Chuck Schumer wants to pass the legislation out of the upper chamber before Christmas.


Chuck Schumer wants the Senate to pass President Joe Biden's social spending plan before Christmas. Standing in his way is the chamber's long to-do list, its rules referee and — more likely than not — Joe Manchin.

The House on Friday morning passed $1.7 trillion in new funding to expand the social safety net, sending it to the upper chamber after months of infighting. In a statement soon after, Schumer said that the Senate will consider the legislation “as soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate parliamentarian has been completed.”

While Democrats expect the Senate to bring the spending legislation to the floor shortly after returning from the Thanksgiving recess, the chamber still needs to pass its annual defense policy bill. Schumer began that process this week, but the Senate has yet to vote on amendments to the legislation.

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When asked Friday about timing for final passage of the defense policy bill, Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) laughed and replied: “We got to wait until we get to the vote.”

The defense policy bill, first on the to-do list, could take up much of the first week of December. The chamber also needs to fund the government past Dec. 3. Under that timeline, Democrats aren't expecting the Senate to take up the social spending bill until the second week of December, at the earliest.

And that’s assuming Manchin (D-W.Va.) agrees to move forward by then. Earlier this week, the key centrist did not indicate whether he would be a “yes” vote for starting debate. With an evenly divided Senate, Democrats can’t pass the legislation without Manchin’s support.

“It’ll be done by the time we leave in December,” predicted Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Friday. “We’re going to come back, we’ll try and wrap up the [defense policy bill]... and then we’ll move on to [the social spending bill]… This is going to be a wild December month.”