Biden acknowledges sweeping domestic policy bill, Build Back Better, unlikely to pass this year

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden acknowledged Thursday that his sweeping social spending and climate policy legislation is unlikely to pass before the end of the year.

Biden said in a statement that more time is needed to finalize agreements, turn those deals into legislative language and complete other procedural steps.

Biden said that work will continue "over the days and weeks ahead."

But he expressed confidence that differences with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.VA., a key holdout, can be bridged.

"We will – we must – get Build Back Better passed, even in the face of Republican opposition," he said.

House progressives, who only agreed to vote for an infrastructure package with Biden’s assurance that the Senate would also approve Build Back Better, said senators should not go home for the holidays until it’s done.

“We trust the president to follow through on that promise, and that he and the Senate will continue working until he can,” Washington state Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.

Jayapal said she conveyed that message to Biden by phone today.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Senate Democrats are “frustrated and disappointed” by the lack of agreement among themselves.

But Durbin said he thought Biden is doing everything he can to resolve the impasse. Manchin has been at the White House so often that he’s been “camped out in the Lincoln Bedroom and has his own parking space,” Durbin told reporters.

“I couldn't ask for Joe Biden to do more in his effort to find common ground with Joe Manchin,” he said.

The nearly $2 trillion legislation includes a number of progressive priorities, such as free preschool, major climate change initiatives and extending the child tax credit.

The Build Back Better Act, the president’s signature domestic policy bill, narrowly passed the House last month over the unanimous opposition of Republicans. 

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House December 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden is traveling to Kentucky on Wednesday, where he will visit some of the towns hit hardest by the recent deadly tornados that struck the region. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In the Senate, lawmakers were aiming to get the legislation passed by Christmas. However, the bill needs the support of every single Democrat to pass through a procedure that allows the party to prevent a GOP filibuster.

Manchin, a conservative Democrat, has not yet said if he will support the bill. He's expressed concern about both the size and scope of the package.

Biden said Thursday his team's discussions with Manchin are ongoing.

At the same time, Biden added, lawmakers need to "press forward" on voting rights legislation.

But while Democrats are renewing their push  on voting – amid increasing pressure from civil rights groups and other activists – they don't have the same ability to avoid a filibusteras they do with Build Back Better.

In the absence of GOP support on voting reform, Democrats would have to change Senate rules, something both Manchin and Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema have resisted. 

Biden said he had a "productive conversation" Thursday with several senators, including Manchin, about how to get the legislation passed.

"Our democracy, Biden said, "is at stake." 

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_