Democrats in the Senate are preparing to miss their self-imposed deadline to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion social safety net bill before the end of the year, according to four sources familiar with planning by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
The decision to try again next year is based on simple math — Schumer doesn’t have the 50 votes needed to pass the legislation thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who remains a hold out.
Talks between Manchin and Biden are going "very poorly," according to a source familiar with the talks.
The decision to delay is also in part because Senate Democrats haven’t finished negotiating the bill. Provisions on state and local taxes and the methane rule remain undecided. Senate Democrats also haven’t finished clearing all the procedural hurdles necessary to hold a vote.
Two congressional sources said a vote could be delayed until March. The sources asked to speak anonymously in order to provide frank assessments of internal discussions.
Asked whether his resistance to the bill was related to the inclusion of child tax credit payments, Manchin told reporters that, "I've always been for child tax credits. We voted for it many times."
"This is bull----," he added. "You're bull----."
The last of the child tax credit payments goes out Wednesday unless the Senate can pass the safety net bill before the new year.
Schumer, however, has not signaled a public willingness to throw in the towel.
“The president and Sen. Manchin are having many discussions, and we’re waiting to see the outcome of those,” Schumer told reporters on Wednesday.
Schumer still plans to vote this month on both the social safety net bill and a voting bill, his office said.
The Senate was scheduled to have already headed home for the Christmas holiday, but sources say Schumer isn’t ready to tell them to leave Washington, yet.
Schumer is instead hoping to take action on voting rights that has stalled in the chamber, multiple sources said. That legislation — which failed to get any Republican support and therefore could not clear the needed 60 vote threshold.
Senate Democrats are discussing changing the rules to allow for passage on a 50-vote majority, a move that remains uncertain. A group of four moderate Democrats, including Manchin, have held numerous meetings in the past several days to discuss a possible rule change. Additional meetings are planned for Wednesday.
“Schumer is hoping the small group working on voting rights rules change will find a path forward in the coming days,” a source familiar with discussions tells NBC News.
There has been increasing pressure on the Senate to act on a voting bill. The NAACP is meeting Wednesday with senators virtually.
Democrats are looking at the political fallout that could come when they have to face voters next year without having delivered voting legislation — something that they cited as a priority and which they have warned voters could be the death of democracy if not done.
Democrats remain fearful about the impact restrictive voting measures will have in Republican led states, compounded by the redistricting that is underway in most states.
But the political realities may not be enough to overcome the legislative hurdles.
Manchin has said repeatedly that he wants any rule change to be bipartisan, and even held a meeting this week with a small group of Republicans and Democrats on the issue.
“All of my discussions have been bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats. A rules change should be done to where we all have input in this rules change because we’re going to have to live with it,” Manchin said Tuesday.