News Analysis: U.S. Dems seek to pass massive spending bill by Christmas, but hurdles remain

2021-12-02 00:07:05 GMT2021-12-02 08:07:05(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Democrats intend to pass their mammoth social spending bill by Christmas, but a number of hurdles stand in their way.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday said that he would bring President Joe Biden's spending bill to the Senate floor once the parliamentarian finishes reviewing it and that it is his "goal" to pass the roughly 2 trillion U.S. dollar bill by the end of the year.

The Goliath bill, passed by the House before a week-long Thanksgiving break after months of wrangling between progressives and moderate Democrats, contains investments in health care and education.

Democrats said it will dramatically widen the nation's social safety net, but Republicans call the legislation a dangerous path toward socialism that will add to the already skyhigh national debt.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, last week said: "It will be done by the time we leave in December," but noted the Senate's lengthy list of other business to get to before they can tackle the bill.

The Democratic party will also need to get the support of Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema - the last holdouts who have not signed onto the bill. In a tightly split Senate, their votes are crucial to passing the legislation.

The two moderate Democrats have balked at the bill's gargantuan price tag, and neither has indicated whether they will support the bill in its current form.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that he believes Sinema will sign on to the legislation because it has broad support among Democrats, and that she will need those voters when she comes up for reelection.

Senator Manchin is negotiating over the child care and paid leave provisions, West said, noting two of the bill's measures.

"The package has been significantly pared back and the cost has come down, so it is getting in the range where there should be a majority in favor of it," West said.

Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua that Sinema will have to run for reelection in 2024, and that she is not well-seated as of now.

In Arizona, her home state, a little under half of Democrats view her favorably, and a little under half of Republicans view her favorably, Ramsay noted.

"This suggests she is 'falling between two stools' and her approach of claiming independence while seldom saying what she supports is eroding her support across the spectrum," Ramsay said.

The bill's price tag has come down considerably since its initial 3 trillion U.S. dollars, as a number of provisions have been scrapped - and more cuts are expected.


House Democrats included in their version a provision for paid family leave, in spite of Manchin's opposition to the policy.

The House bill also includes reforms to the nation's broken immigration system, but those measures still need to make it past the parliamentarian, whose job is to ensure the rules are followed. The parliamentarian has thrown out previous attempts to include immigration provisions.

Democrats in the Senate are also split over the House bill's inclusion of a measure that allows for more deductions for state and local taxes.

Known as SALT, the provision will amount to a tax break for those who earn more - a move lambasted by House progressives.

The bill's final form remains unknown, although Ramsay said it would be "surprising to me if the remaining climate-change related parts of the bill remained intact."

The bill initially had a number of climate change provisions meant to reduce the nation's carbon footprint.

Jan Hill, a waitress in her 30s in the Washington, D.C. area, told Xinhua she hopes the bill will help her out.

Frank Williams, a manager in his 50s at a mid-sized company in the D.C. area, told Xinhua he frets over the cost of the bill at a time of high national debt. Enditem