Democrats in the U.S. Senate appear to have one key holdout in their push to pass a major social and environmental bill before next week’s Christmas holiday.
The Associated Press, Reuters and other news organizations reported Wednesday that based on information from people familiar with ongoing negotiations, Senator Joe Manchin is objecting to a piece of the legislation that extends an expiring child tax credit program for one year.
He told reporters Wednesday that he has “always been for child tax credits” and that reports about his opposition to including them in the legislation were “a lot of bad rumors.”
Manchin has expressed his opposition to the total size of the package of programs advocated by President Joe Biden. Democrats initially pursued a $3.5 trillion plan before cutting it to about $2 trillion to try to ease passage.
The proposals include expanding health care programs, universal prekindergarten, clean energy investments, and cutting prescription drug costs. Democrats want to pay for them with tax increases on big corporations and the wealthy.
With only a narrow majority in the Senate, and Republicans opposed to the package, Democrats need all members of their caucus to support it.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had set a goal of getting approval by the Dec. 25 Christmas holiday.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a briefing Wednesday that the Biden administration is still hopeful of meeting that goal.
“We are optimistic that we will get this done before Christmas, and that is our focus, that is our hope, and that’s what we’re working towards,” Jean-Pierre said.
She said Biden and Manchin have had “two great conversations” this week.
When asked Wednesday if he believes the bill will be passed before the end of the year, Biden told a reporter: “I hope so. It’s going to be close.”
The child tax credit up for extension is an expanded program that sent families monthly checks beginning in July. Most received $300 for each child under the age of 6, and $250 for children ages 6-17.
Without an extension, the program would revert to its previous form, a credit of $2,000 per child when filing annual tax returns instead of receiving monthly checks.
Senate Democrats are also considering whether to prioritize voting rights legislation, which Republicans also opposed, as the year comes to a close.
“If we can get the congressional voting rights done, we should do it,” Biden told a reporter when asked about the issue Wednesday. “If we can’t, we got to keep going. There’s nothing domestically more important than voting rights. It’s the single-biggest issue.”