Senate Returns to Deal With Biden’s Stalled Agenda

The president’s domestic policy ambitions hang in the balance, but little legislative action is expected ahead of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot.

The president’s domestic policy ambitions hang in the balance, but little legislative action is expected ahead of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot.

WASHINGTON — The Senate returns on Monday to confront President Biden’s stalled agenda, as Democrats struggle to advance both their marquee climate, tax and spending measure and a voting rights overhaul that together encompass their domestic policy ambitions.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, pledged to bring both pieces of legislation for a vote this year, despite little evidence that either measure as written has the votes to advance in the evenly divided Senate.

Mr. Schumer, in a letter to his colleagues during the holiday recess, suggested that he would try to force a change to chamber rules to help navigate the voting rights bill around the 60-vote filibuster threshold, if Republicans block efforts to take up the measure. (At least two centrist Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have previously opposed changing the Senate rules.)

“I would ask you to consider this question,” he wrote. “If the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?”

Democrats are using the fast-track budget reconciliation process to shield Mr. Biden’s $2.2 trillion tax, climate and domestic spending bill from a filibuster and pass it with only Democratic votes. But after months of private negotiating and concessions by the White House and Democratic leaders, Mr. Manchin announced in December that he would not support the measure as written. With Republicans unanimously opposed, all 50 Democrats need to back the package for it to pass.

Democrats will now need to dramatically whittle down the measure to appease Mr. Manchin’s concerns about its fiscal impact if they have any hope of winning his vote.

But little legislative action is expected this week, given the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Only the Senate is scheduled to be in session this week, although some senators are likely to spend Thursday attending a memorial service for former Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, in Atlanta. The House of Representatives will reconvene on Jan. 10.

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