Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck a confident tone Thursday about the Democratic Party's newly announced reconciliation agreement — legislation that would invest in combating climate change, reform prescription drug pricing, hike taxes on the wealthy and corporations, among other issues.
But during an afternoon conversation in his office, Schumer declined to say whether he spoke with Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., a key linchpin in the legislative push.
“I’ve given every member a few days to read the bill,” he told NBC News in an interview in his office Thursday afternoon, part of which aired on on NBC's Nightly News. “It’s a 700 page bill. And we’ll be talking. Hopefully we’ll have 50 votes.”
Schumer acknowledged that the on-again, off-again negotiating process with Manchin has been a fraught one, saying: “I’ve been frustrated for a long time, because I think we have so much we need to get done…But you know, my dad passed away six months ago, and he taught me something: if you’re doing the right thing, and you persist — keep at it, God will make sure you succeed. So we kept at it.”
In this case, "we," referred to just Manchin and Schumer, who announced the agreement Wednesday afternoon on a deal many thought was out of reach when Manchin said earlier this month he wouldn't support climate and tax pieces of a similar bill.
Asked about President Joe Biden's role in negotiations on issues like this bill and the recent gun violence prevention package, Schumer replied: "The president very much knows what’s going on in this particular negotiation. Senator Manchin said he just wanted it to be with me and him. Not just nobody, but nobody else. And that’s what we did.”
He added that the White House “generally” knew what was going on.
It’s not just a question of securing the 50 votes— but also making sure there are 50 Democratic senators in seats next week. That math is complicated because of the unpredictability of Covid. Manchin currently has Covid, but would likely be back next week, while Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin announced this week he tested positive too. (Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is recovering from hip surgery as well but his office says he could come in and vote).
“Stay safe, stay healthy,” Schumer said of his warnings to his colleagues. “The future of the whole globe is at stake with what we have in this bill.”