Democrats' December dread builds after defense stumble

Senate Republicans’ Monday blockade of the annual defense legislation over lack of amendment votes presaged a bitingly difficult December for Democrats’ slim Senate majority. Top of mind is clinching President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion spending package, which can pass with only Democratic votes and is expected to move after the routine defense bill. Simultaneously, the House and Senate need to fund the government past Friday and raise the debt ceiling in the coming weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants to advance the party-line social and climate spending legislation before Christmas, but he needs total unity among his 50 Democrats to move forward. Holdout Sen. Joe Manchin was noncommittal on Monday evening about bringing the bill to the floor; he’ll have to vote to proceed to the legislation before he and other senators can move to amend it.

The West Virginia Democrat said he spent Monday afternoon reviewing the package and again raised concerns about how spending more money might affect inflation. He said that and the new coronavirus variant are among the concerns that should give Congress “cause to pause.”