U.S. Senate to miss year-end deadline on $1.75 trillion Biden bill

·2-min read
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks to reporters as he leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate steered toward an end-of-year recess on Friday as Democrats were unable to pass President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion domestic investment program and major election reforms by a self-imposed Christmas deadline.

The deadlock over these two high-profile bills put in jeopardy the continuation of an expanded child tax credit for some 3.6 million poor families, which expires on Dec. 31.

Democrats had hoped to extend for another year this six-month-old pilot program as part of Biden's "Build Back Better" legislation that would expand an array of social programs and battle climate change.

Now, with many senators already out of town, the debate on these is expected to resume in January.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators were expected to continue negotiations. Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has been a key holdout and his support is crucial in a chamber where the Democrats have the slimmest margin of control.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged the Democrats' setbacks in a speech in which he said: "The president requested more time to continue his negotiations (on Build Back Better) so we will keep working...to bring this bill over the finish line."

Schumer did not say when that work might conclude.

Rank-and-file Democrats were resigned to missing Schumer's year-end deadline for passing the domestic investment and voting rights bills. They had particularly wanted the latter approved promptly so that states have more time to prepare for the November, 2022 congressional elections, in which Republicans hope to win back control of Congress.

"There's no reason to put it up on the floor and fail" before enough votes are nailed down, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said of the Build Back Better plan.

The voting rights bill comes in the face of many Republican-controlled states pursuing legislation to reduce voters' access to the ballot.

'MORE TIME' THAN ANTICIPATED

Even as the Senate on Friday debated a long list of Biden nominees for ambassadorships, federal judges and other high-level administration jobs, 20 senators, mainly Republicans, already had left town to begin their breaks.

Earlier, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that recent talks with Manchin were encouraging.

"The president's going to get this done and we're going to get it across the finish line. And yes, it's going to take more time than we anticipated," she told reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden traveled to South Carolina.

Psaki also raised the possibility of the Treasury Department making double monthly child tax credit payments in February if Congress is not able to renew that program until early next year so that none of the recipients lose money.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)

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