Biden’s agenda test looms after he signs bill to avoid government shutdown
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s program was put to a key test Thursday among fellow Democrats as the House of Representatives prepared for a vote on a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill that progressives have threatened to block unless there is also agreement on a bigger social spending plan.
Congress earlier Thursday pushed Washington back to the brink of government shutdown by voting to continue funding the government until December 3. Biden signed the measure before funding ran out at midnight.
“There is so much more to do. But passing this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to spend longer term funding to keep our government running and serving. the American people, “Biden said in a statement. .
The House approved the measure in a bipartisan vote by 254-175, hours after it passed the Senate by 65-35.
With that hurdle overcome, Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scrambled to muster a vote to move forward with an infrastructure plan that has already been passed by the Senate with bipartisan support.
The two spoke on the phone Thursday afternoon about the situation, a source close to the call said.
Negotiations continued into the evening. In a statement to fellow Democrats, Pelosi called the day a “productive and crucial day” and said discussions were continuing.
Some progressive Democrats have pledged to vote against the bill to invest in the country’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, angry that Democrats have yet to come to an agreement on a multibillion-dollar complementary bill. dollars with funding for social services and to fight climate change.
Pelosi confirmed that the House would vote on the infrastructure bill anyway on Thursday.
When reporters asked House Democrat No.2 Steny Hoyer if he was convinced the bill would pass in a vote on Thursday, he replied in one word: “No.”
Representative Josh Gottheimer, one of the leading moderate Democrats, could not say when the House would vote on the infrastructure bill, but told reporters: “We’re going to get the votes. the House.”
Faced with ever-higher odds of passing their $ 3.5 trillion social spending proposal, Biden and his associates attempt to uncover what closer proposal could unite an ideologically fractured Democratic caucus of lawmakers, according to people close to the case. Read more
Lawmakers on the left wing of the party have said they will not vote for the infrastructure bill unless they are certain their priorities will be reflected in the social spending bill.
Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, a leader of the House Progressives, told reporters: “Nothing has changed with our caucus members. We do not have the voices to adopt infrastructure.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, a key Democratic moderate with the power to block legislation in the Senate, said on Thursday that the larger bill is not expected to cost more than $ 1.5 trillion – well below the price of $ 3.5 trillion. dollars offered by Biden.
Another moderate Democrat, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, declined to say whether she agreed with Manchin’s proposal. She has met with Biden on several occasions to discuss the bill.
With very slim majorities in Congress, Democrats can’t afford to lose many votes if they are to get their platform through. They are unlikely to get much support from House Republicans keen to recapture a majority in the 2022 congressional election.
The Senate Interim Expenditure Bill also provides assistance to communities hard hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. Money to help Afghan refugees is also included.
THREAT TO THE DEBT CEILING
In another high-stakes battle, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have continued to fight to give the Treasury Department additional borrowing power beyond the current legal limit of $ 28.4 trillion. A historic US debt default could occur around Oct. 18, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said if Congress does not act.
Republicans don’t want any part of the debt limit increase, saying it’s the Democrats’ problem since they control Congress and the White House. Democrats note that about $ 5,000 billion in the country’s debt is the result of tax and spending cuts enacted during Republican Donald Trump’s presidency.
The House on Wednesday night approved a bill suspending the debt ceiling until December 2022. The Senate could vote on it “as early as next week,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, but Republicans should block it again.
Yellen said Thursday it would be a “disaster” if Congress did not raise the debt ceiling. read more Uncertainty begins to filter through the financial markets, even though few believe the nation will eventually default.
The looming debt crisis is shaking Americans on both sides of the political spectrum, according to a national Ipsos opinion poll conducted for Reuters on Tuesday and Wednesday.
He showed that 65% of adults, including eight in 10 Democrats and five in 10 Republicans, are “very” or “a little” concerned that Congress will not reach a debt deal on time.
The poll also found that 30% think Republicans in Congress deserve the most blame if there is a government shutdown, while 21% would blame Democrats in Congress and 16% would blame Biden.
Reporting by David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Additional reports by Jarrett Renshaw, Chris Kahn and Trevor Hunnicutt; Written by Andy Sullivan and Steve Holland; Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman, Peter Cooney and Gerry Doyle
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