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Tipsheet

Kamala Harris' Answer on How They Can Get Build Back Better Passed: 'The Stakes Are So High'

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As I covered on Friday, Democrats think there is a possibility of reviving the reconciliation spending bill known as Build Back Better. This evidently includes Vice President Kamala Harris, as evidenced by an interview with CBS' Margaret Brennan, which aired on Sunday's edition of "Face the Nation."

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Brennan referenced that the bill has been effectively killed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who last week indicated he was a "no" vote. 

When asked "do you feel that Senator Manchin is playing fair with you?," the vice president gave a non-answer of sorts. "I think the stakes are too high for this to be in any way about any specific individual," Harris responded. When Brennan reminded her that they couldn't afford to lose Manchin in the 50-50 Senate, Harris instead reminded her that she provides the tiebreaking vote.

The interview of course featured Harris laughing, as she is prone to doing. She also referenced a "joke" between her and President Joe Biden. "In fact, the president and I joke," Harris told Brennan. "And when I leave one of our meetings to go break a tie, he says, 'Well, that's going to be a winning vote.' Whenever I vote, we win. It's a -- it's a joke we have."

Harris providing the 51st vote is the only reason why Democrats have a majority in the Senate, though that could very well change, depending on results of the 2022 midterm elections. As I've frequently written about, the president's party in Congress tends to lose seats during his first midterm election. 

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Becoming more serious, Harris mentioned that "the stakes are so high." She went on to claim "we can't afford, in this moment of time, where we have an opportunity to do something so substantial in terms of public policy in America, to literally help families, I refuse to get caught up in the what might be personal politics, when the people who are waking up at 3:00 in the morning worried about how they're going to get by could care less about the politics of D.C.," also offering that people "just want us to fix things."

For how much she stressed that "the stakes are so high" and the importance of passing Build Back Better, Harris didn't offer much in way of solutions.

Brennan also brought up the child tax credit, including as it applied to passing the bill. This has been something of an issue for Sen. Manchin, who is concerned about the cost of many provisions in the bill. He was reportedly "stunned" by a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicating that programs from Build Back Better would add $3 trillion to the deficit from 2022 to 2031 if they were made permanent. 

It was the same story with Harris. "We have to extend it," she kept saying. When Brennan aptly asked "how do you do that without Senator Manchin," Harris merely responded with "you don't give up. That's how we do it. We don't give up. That's how," before the discussion moved on to covering "voting rights."

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The issue of a 50-50 came up yet again, and Harris was pressed yet again on that issue, with her response still amounting to a non-answer.

When Brennan reminded Harris that Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are opposed to changing the filibuster to get such voting legislation passed, Harris responded that "we will do and look at whatever is necessary to push for Congress to take this issue on. And we have to. We have to."

Harris claimed "I'm not saying that" when Brennan offered "a carve-out to the filibuster," but did not push back when Brennan mentioned "it sounds like you're open, though, to a carve-out to the filibuster to get there" in order to pass such legislation. 

When Brennan pushed further, Harris' answer did have some more substance to it, though it still was very much an answer a typical politician might give. 

As the relevant conversation went:

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, to that point, you were just in the Senate. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the president spent decades there. How come you can't pull someone across the aisle on this... 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We are trying. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: ... or manage Joe Manchin within your own party? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We are not going to give up on these issues. 

But you're right. It's a 50/50 Senate. It's a 50/50 Senate. And so -- but it has to be a combination of us, as an administration, but also everyone weighing in. And I'm glad we're having this conversation. I think we have to continue to elevate the conversation about voting rights. 

Given the daily grind that people are facing, this may not feel like an immediate or urgent matter, when, in fact, it is. And the more we have the opportunity to talk about it, the more I think people will see, yes, I don't want an America of the future for my kids to be in an America where we are -- are suppressing the right of the American people to vote.

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Harris did not explain further how there is actually a danger in this country of "suppressing the right of the American people to vote" before Brennan moved on to discussing "national security challenge[s]." 

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