- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 26, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris said the “stakes are too high” to give up on passing President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill after it was derailed in the Senate.

Ms. Harris, who holds the tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 split Senate, said the White House is working to hammer out a compromise acceptable to Sen. Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat who has balked at the price tag of the president’s wish list..

“I am not giving up, the president is not giving up, and quite frankly, the stakes are too high,” Ms. Harris said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Ms. Harris said there is “room for discussion” on where the legislation goes from here, and she said the discussion is bigger than Mr. Manchin, whose opposition to the bill has infuriated Democratic Party leaders and liberal activists.

Mr. Biden and Democrats are now seeking to salvage the plan.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York vowed in a letter to his colleagues last week to hold votes on a revised version of the plan next year “so that every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.”

SEE ALSO: Sen. Cardin: Democrats can find ‘sweet spot’ on Build Back Better

“We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done,” he said.

Mr. Schumer is betting the move will force Mr. Manchin to go on record opposing several of the package’s more popular provisions, including universal pre-kindergarten and expanded Medicare benefits for seniors. 

Democrats say they are optimistic Mr. Manchin will come around.

“At the end of the day I think Sen. Manchin understands the importance of getting a bill to the president to deal with many of the issues that are in Build Back Better,” Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.”  “There is unanimity in our caucus that we want to get a bill to the president,” Mr. Cardin said.

“I think we can reach that sweet spot,” he said. “A lot of us are going to be disappointed, but we are not going to let perfection be the enemy of getting something done.”

Ms. Harris, meanwhile, said the negotiations are bigger than Mr. Manchin.

SEE ALSO: Sen. Blunt: Biden’s $1.75T social welfare plan would hurt economy, increase inflation

“The stakes are so high and we can’t afford in this moment of time where we have an opportunity to do something so substantial in terms of public policy in America, to literally help families, I refuse to get caught up in the what might be personal politics when the people who are waking up at three o’clock in the morning worried about how they’re going to get by could care less about the politics of D.C,” she said. “They just want us to fix things.”

Republicans signaled Sunday they have no intentions of supporting the Democrats’ legislation, with several lawmakers airing GOP concerns over the potential impact the level of new spending would have on the economy and inflation.

Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the package relies on budget “gimmicks” and said putting more money “into the economy at a time when the economy is already overheated I think is just a bad idea.”

“I think the biggest challenge that families are facing right now is inflation,” Mr. Blunt said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Inflation numbers [are] as high as they have been in four decades.

“6.8% inflation could become something bigger than that,” he said.  “We can’t solve every problem by just dropping money on top of more money.”

Ms. Harris said leading economists have concluded the package would boost the economy and lift up Americans.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, said Senate Democrats up for reelection in competitive states should be thanking Mr. Manchin.

Joe Manchin may have saved the reelection of two, three, [or] four … Democratic senators who would have had to vote yes on Build Back Better, but would rather not have voted at all,” Mr. Cramer said on “Fox News Sunday Morning Futures.” “They were rewarded this opportunity to give it a pass for a year, and yet they seem hellbent on doing it.”

Mr. Cramer said Mr. Schumer is pressing forward with votes on the bill because he wants to shield himself from a possible primary challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

“In my mind what is such a great tragedy about it is: a once-great Democratic Party has become this bizarre socialist agenda where they seem to be putting all the chips on the table this year while they have control of the House, the Senate and the White House,” Mr. Cramer said. “And thank God for Joe Manchin and others like him, but especially Joe Manchin who is trying to save America and in the process might very well save the Democratic Party.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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