President Biden and the Main Democrats in Congress face a series of daunting challenges this week as they maneuver to unite their party’s rival factions around their multibillion-dollar national agenda and prevent the government from shutting down before the Friday deadline.
President Nancy Pelosi of California said on Sunday night that the House would vote Thursday on a bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill, pushing back action scheduled for Monday and giving Democrats more time to reach consensus on measure.
Progressives have said they will not support this legislation until they see Congress act on a sprawling $ 3.5 trillion social safety net and climate change, but moderates balked at the size and scope of this bill, leaving both bills in limbo.
With small majorities in both chambers, Democrats cannot afford to lose even a single Democratic vote in the Senate – and have room for as few as three House defections – to pass the House. legislation in the face of republican opposition. House Democrats are expected to meet Monday afternoon to discuss their differences on the measures.
The talks are taking place under the cloud of a possible government shutdown. The House infrastructure vote will come hours before government funding – along with key transportation programs addressed in the infrastructure bill – ends after midnight on September 31.
Republicans are expected to block Senate action on an interim spending measure to extend funding until December on Monday, which would also raise the debt ceiling to allow the government to meet its obligations. Their opposition risks a shutdown this week and catastrophic default within weeks, leaving Democrats looking for a new strategy to avert a tax disaster.
The House passed the temporary spending bill last week with only Democratic votes.
Ms Pelosi pledged last month to hold a vote on bipartisan infrastructure legislation by Monday, after a group of centrist Democrats threatened to vote against a budget bill needed to pass the party’s signature $ 3.5 trillion on social policy and the climate change bill without a quick vote on their priority.
Ms Pelosi’s announcement that the House would aim to pass the infrastructure bill later in the week reflected the difficult task facing Democratic leaders as they try to find a compromise to make move Mr. Biden’s agenda forward.
“I never introduce a bill that does not have a voice,” Ms Pelosi said of the infrastructure bill on “This Week” on ABC Sunday.
Mr Biden and members of his cabinet met with lawmakers over the weekend in a bid to push the two bills past the finish line, according to a White House official familiar with the discussions .
Representative Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, again pledged on Sunday that liberal lawmakers would only back the infrastructure bill if it was accompanied by action on the $ 3.5 billion plan of dollars.
“The speaker is an incredibly good vote counter, and she knows exactly where her caucus is, and we’ve been very clear about that,” Ms. Jayapal said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “The votes are not there.”
For nearly two decades, lawmakers in Washington have shown a growing escalation in the federal government’s ability to borrow money to pay its bills. They forced administrations on both sides to take evasive action, dangerously pushing the nation to the brink of economic calamity. But they never made the United States fail.
The dance is repeating itself this fall, but this time the dynamics are different – and the threat of default is greater than ever.
Republicans in Congress have refused to help raise the country’s debt limit, even though the need to borrow stems from the bipartisan practice of running large budget deficits. Republicans agree that the United States must pay its bills, but on Monday they are expected to block a measure in the Senate that would allow the government to do so. Democrats, insisting that Republicans help pay for past decisions to increase spending and cut taxes, have so far refused to use a special process to raise the limit themselves.
Observers inside and outside Washington fear that neither side will move in time, disrupting financial markets and capsizing the burgeoning economic recovery after the pandemic downturn.
If the limit is not raised or suspended, Treasury Department officials warn, the government will soon exhaust its ability to borrow money, forcing officials to choose between missing payments on military salaries, military benefits. social security and the interest it owes the investors who financed the US spending madness.
Yet Republicans have threatened to obstruct any attempt by Senate Democrats to pass a simple bill to increase borrowing. Party leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky want to force Democrats to raise the limit themselves, through a congressional expedited process that bypasses Republican obstruction.
“If they want to tax, borrow and spend historic amounts of money without our help,” McConnell told the Senate this week, “they will have to raise the debt ceiling without our help.”
With President Biden’s approval ratings falling below 50% after the most difficult period of his young administration, advancing his ambitious legislative agenda has taken on new urgency for Democratic lawmakers.
Recognizing that a president’s popularity is the best indicator of how his party will fare in the midterm elections, Democrats face a grim prospect: if Mr Biden does not succeed in the halls of the Congress this fall, it could doom his party’s majorities in the polls next fall.
Not that such a do-or-die dilemma is in itself enough to stop the Democrats’ intra-party bickering, which the president called a “dead end” on Friday. Divisions between moderates and liberals over the substance, price, and even the legislative timeline of Mr Biden’s two priorities, a bipartisan public works bill and broader welfare legislation, could further undermine the proposals.
But it’s increasingly clear to Democratic officials that beyond fully containing the still raging pandemic, the only way Mr. Biden can bounce back politically – and the party can maintain its tenuous hold. on power on Capitol Hill – is whether he and they are capable of presenting tangible achievements to voters.
Voting is already underway in the Virginia governor’s race, and with Election Day just five weeks away, the race between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and business executive Glenn Youngkin has drawn closer. , in part because of Mr. Biden’s decline. polls.
In an interview, the rarely subtle Mr. McAuliffe highlighted the risk posed by congressional inaction, almost demanding that lawmakers act.
“Voters haven’t sent Democrats to Washington to sit and chat all day,” said McAuliffe, himself a former national party chairman. “They have to get there.”
Voters, he said, want “to see jurisdiction; they want to see people doing their jobs.
Mr McAuliffe, who is at an impasse with Mr Youngkin in both public and private polls, is close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a number of White House officials. He and his advisers have been direct with Biden’s aides about the proximity of the governor’s race and argued that the bitter political environment for Democrats is why the contest has become more competitive, officials say. party familiar with the conversations.
Her moderate colleagues, while they don’t feel quite the same level of political urgency, agree and are puzzled by Mr. Biden’s failure to pressure both Ms. Pelosi and recalcitrant progressives. for them to approve the infrastructure bill and provide it with substantial and indispensable aid, victory.