Sen. Ben Cardin said Sunday he’s not convinced that the Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation is dead.
“There is unanimity in our caucus that we want to get a bill to the president, and we are working to see what that bill will contain. President Biden is directly involved in these negotiations,” the Maryland Democrat said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Cardin said he saw hope for the megabill to be resurrected in 2022 even after the statement last Sunday by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that he would not vote for it. Without Manchin’s vote — and with all 50 Senate Republicans lined up against it — Democrats have no way to get to 50 votes. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sent out a letter last week saying there will be a vote on the bill.
“We are prepared to move; we just need to make sure we have unanimity in our caucus and that’s what we are working on and we will start on that next week when we return,” Cardin told host Mike Emanuel.
The $1.7 trillion legislation included a wide range of policy items, including universal preschool, paid family leave, child nutrition assistance, and Medicare and Medicaid expansion. Clean energy measures were a significant part of the bill. The legislation would also make the current child tax credit permanent.
Emanuel asked Cardin if Democrats risked losing the support of progressives if they scaled the legislation back. The senator acknowledged that Democrats needed to find a “sweet spot” to get legislation through without losing votes from the Democratic caucus.
“We want to see it as comprehensive as possible, but we need to make sure we have the votes to pass it, so that means it will be different than some of us would like to see,” he said.
Cardin said Democrats are open to potentially passing some parts of the bill as standalone items.
“That’s a strategy decision that’s being negotiated. We are open to a way to reach the finish line,” Cardin said.
Speaking on the same show, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) made it clear that he still opposed the overall package, but said he assumed there were things in the bill that he could support as standalone items, citing an initiative he had been working on with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
“Surely there is something in there that I would be for, Sen. Stabenow and I have worked for years to try to see that we treat mental health like all other health. That’s a relatively small item in this bill. I think it’s in there, but that’s an item if we put on the floor by itself, Republicans and Democrats would vote for,” Blunt said.