WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told fellow Democrats during a closed-door meeting Thursday that he is aiming to pass a major spending bill ahead of the chamber's August recess, according to a Democrat inside the meeting.
Schumer's comments came a day after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key moderate, announced his support of the deal. The package includes major investments in drug pricing, as well as provisions to address climate change and taxes on the wealthy — priorities that Democrats "have been fighting to do for decades," Schumer said.
The deal signals a significant step toward reviving elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda after Manchin said in December that he would not vote for the president’s Build Back Better Act, his initial spending proposal.
Delivering remarks from the White House on Thursday, Biden called on Congress to pass the package, lauding it as “the most important investment, not hyperbole, we’ve ever made in our energy security,” while insisting that it would “reduce inflationary pressures on the economy.”
"We should pass this today and get moving," he said.
In a joint statement Wednesday, Schumer and Manchin said that the bill would "make a historic down payment on deficit reduction to fight inflation, invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030,” while permitting Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs and lower health care costs.
"This bill is far from perfect, it’s a compromise. But it’s often how progress is made, by compromises," Biden said. "My message to Congress is this: this is the strongest bill you can pass to lower inflation, cut the deficit, reduce healthcare costs, tackle the climate crisis and promote energy security. All the time while reducing the burdens facing working-class and middle-class families. So pass it."
Manchin told reporters that he had not spoken with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., about the deal, adding that he was unwilling to nix a revenue-generating provision that would increase taxes on carried interest — a measure she has previously said she opposes.
“We didn’t raise taxes, so she should be happy with that,” Manchin said, noting that the bill didn’t include tax increases except at a 15% minimum. “I’m hoping everybody’s OK.”
Sinema’s office reiterated that she will not be currently taking a position on the bill, with a spokesman for Sinema telling NBC News, “She doesn’t have comment, she’s reviewing the text and will need to review what comes out of the parliamentarian process.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Thursday that he's dissatisfied with the bill’s tax provisions, insisting that it would not help efforts to address rising inflation.
“I’m deeply concerned that we are going to be taxing American workers, which is what happens when you tax companies,” Portman told reporters. “Those costs get passed along.”
“I think it’s really bad for America right now as we’re trying to climb out of this spiral we have which is low economic growth and high inflation,” he added.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, similarly rebuked the tax provisions in the bill.
“We’re in a recession. And it’s not the time to increase taxes. More spending is going to feed the fires of inflation,” Grassley told reporters. “Wanting to do more, to pour gasoline on the fires of inflation, is just an irresponsible thing to be doing.”
In his call with Democrats earlier Thursday, Schumer acknowledged that the Senate is running against the clock. Passing the bill "will require us to stick together and work long days and nights for the next 10 days,” Schumer said, according to a Democrat inside the meeting. “We will need to be disciplined in our messaging and focus. It will be hard.”
The bill does not include provisions for paid leave, which has drawn criticism from some advocates who say it is increasingly important after the Supreme Court's decision to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion. Manchin previously expressed his opposition to Democrats' paid leave proposal.