Biden signals Build Back Better may be delayed until next year

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Signs that read "Build Back Better" and "Expand Medicare" are seen as U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) speaks about the Build Back Better package outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

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WASHINGTON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday appeared to acknowledge that his Build Back Better spending bill may not pass Congress in the remaining weeks of this year, saying Democrats would seek to advance the legislation "over the days and weeks ahead."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has set a Christmas deadline for passing the $1.75 trillion social spending and climate change bill, but negotiations have slowed to a crawl.

Biden has been in negotiations with moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has withheld his support for the bill, making him a key vote in the evenly divided chamber.

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"I believe that we will bridge our differences and advance the Build Back Better plan, even in the face of fierce Republican opposition," Biden said in a statement.

He said Manchin has reiterated his support for the overall cost of the bill. He said negotiations are continuing but more time is needed.

A source familiar with their conversations said talks between Biden and Manchin have been going poorly with the two "far apart" on the contents of a bill.

"It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote," Biden said in his statement.

The legislation has been passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives but faces a harder slog in the Senate.

Manchin is coming under increasing fire from fellow Democrats over his stance. They accuse him of holding up Democratic priorities.

Manchin has waved off the criticism.

"No one pressures me, I'm from West Virginia," Manchin told CNN.

Biden said he had spoken to Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi about his most recent discussions with Manchin and that he believes Manchin supporting the funding plan.

He said talks with Manchin would continue next week.

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Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Diane Craft and Stephen Coates

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