Will President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion social-spending and climate package actually get the Senate’s OK this month, as that chamber’s leader has promised?
Two analysts from opposite ends of the political spectrum said that looks likely, as they spoke on Wednesday with MarketWatch for a Barron’s Live episode.
“I think the chances are very, very good that this bill will pass, and I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it, but I would predict that it’s going to happen by this month,” said Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.
Kyle Pomerleau, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, concurred with Hanlon, as the analysts assessed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s stated goal of passage by Christmas. The legislation already got the House’s approval last month, so Biden can sign it into law if the Senate acts and the two chambers reconcile their versions of the measure.
“I think that the Build Back Better Act ultimately passes. I think before Christmas seems like a reasonable timeline,” Pomerleau said. “There are other political challenges involved, if this bleeds over into next year, and I think that the Democrats want to avoid that.”
Democrats also could be motivated by not wanting a lapse in monthly child tax credit payments, according to Hanlon. Those payouts, which began over the summer and provide up to $300 per child to families, would get extended for another year in the current version of the Build Back Better Act.
“The child tax credit payments — the last one would be done on Dec. 15, and so I think the Democrats are going to want to continue those into January and not have them cut off suddenly,” the Center for American Progress expert said.
Hanlon and Pomerleau said they don’t expect huge changes to the Build Back Better Act’s overall price tag, even as moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has expressed opposition to some items in the House version of the bill, including a plan for paid leave and a $4,500 tax credit for electric vehicles made in unionized U.S. factories. Another issue that’s dividing Democratic lawmakers is a proposed lift to the SALT cap, which refers to a limit on deductions from federal income tax for state and local taxes.
“I think that $2 trillion in spending, including the tax credits, is a reasonable place that they will end up,” Pomerleau said, referring to what’s a likely final price tag.
Meanwhile, Hanlon noted that a lot of negotiating has happened this year to get to the current state of affairs, after Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who usually votes with Democrats and chairs his chamber’s budget committee, proposed a much larger spending package.
“If you back up to where we started with President Biden’s agenda and Sen. Sanders’s budget, we’re down to a relatively narrow, limited set of issues and a pretty narrow band of a total price tag,” he said.
“I might expect that to shrink somewhat because of Sen. Manchin, but not that much. I think 90% of the bill will stay the same.”
Democrats can’t afford to lose the support of any senator who typically votes with them, as they advance the bill through a process known as budget reconciliation. That’s because the Senate is split 50-50, with the party in control only because Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties.