Republican senators blocked a bill to keep the government in business and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aimed at avoiding a shutdown have vowed to try again – while continuing President Joe Biden’s grand plans to reshape the government. government.
The efforts aren’t necessarily linked, but the year-end deadline for funding the government last Thursday clashes with Democrats’ desire to move forward on Biden’s vast $ 3.5 trillion federal overhaul.
All of this creates a tumultuous moment for Biden and his party, with consequences that will certainly shape his presidency and the political future of lawmakers.
Success would mean a historic accomplishment, if Democrats could push through Biden’s big bill. Failure – or a highly unlikely government shutdown and debt crisis – could derail careers.
“You know me, I’m a born optimist,” Biden told reporters on Monday, as he rolled up his sleeve for a COVID-19 recall. “We are going to do it.”
Monday’s 50-48 vote against passage of the bill was well below the 60 needed to proceed with a GOP obstruction. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no,” a procedural step to allow him to bring back the measure for consideration, which he said would happen this week.
In a few days, Democrats said they would try again before Thursday’s deadline to pass a bill funding government operations after the fiscal year ends on September 30, brushing aside debate over the limit of the debt for another day, closer to a separate maturity in October.
Meanwhile, the real action takes place behind the scenes of the $ 3.5 trillion measure, with Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress seeking to rework the country’s balance sheets once in a generation.
From free grants for preschool and child care for families with young children to dental care and hearing aids for seniors on Medicare, there’s a lot in the president’s proposal – All to be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
With Republicans firmly opposed, Democrats are rushing to reduce the total and gain resistance within their own party.
“We just have to make tough choices,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats at an evening caucus meeting, according to a person who was granted anonymity to discuss the private session.
As the overall price drops, Pelosi said the president is “working on this coin,” referring to ongoing talks with the Senate. Despite the rush to garner votes, Pelosi said House Democrats would not move forward on a bill until it was acceptable to their fellow Senate colleagues. “We are not there yet,” she said.
Coming out of the caucus meeting, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., Chair of the Way & Means Committee, said as momentum gathered momentum around Thursday, he expected a new amount. total: “Let’s publish the number.”
Building on a separate $ 1,000 billion bipartisan public works program that has already been approved by the Senate and is headed for a House vote, also on Thursday, Biden is looking for significant spending on health care, l education and efforts to combat climate change. The total price, he argues, is in fact “zero” – covered by the expected increase in tax revenue.
He personally calls on his fellow Democrats in Congress to strive to resolve differences and advance his overall vision of domestic politics.
Ticking off the hefty list of goals while meeting the other deadlines, Biden said, “If we do this, the country will be in great shape.”
Biden, Pelosi and Schumer met in the afternoon on the way forward and “will continue to coordinate closely over the next few days,” the White House said in a reading of the appeal.
But Republicans say these are real expenses that cannot be paid and reflect Democrats’ willingness to put government into people’s lives.
And so far the bill is also too important for the main Democrats whose votes are needed in the face of GOP opposition. Two Democratic refractories, Senses Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they will not support a bill of this size. Manchin has already proposed spending of $ 1,000 billion to $ 1,500 billion.
Progressive lawmakers have said they’ve already compromised enough with more centrist Democrats, but in a potential development Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, confirmed that she and Sinema are in talks. .
With all Republicans opposed, Democratic leaders cannot spare a single vote in the Senate at 50-50, relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie and pass the eventual package.
All of this comes as other deadlines swirl this week to pay for government operations and authorize more borrowing or risk a devastating federal shutdown or debt default – though these dire scenarios seem unlikely.
The bill that Senate Republicans voted down Monday night would have temporarily funded government operations, until early December, while providing emergency funds for Hurricane Ida and other disaster relief and for Afghan refugees.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell rejected this approach because Democrats also included a provision to suspend the debt limit, which would allow borrowing to continue to pay the country’s bills.
Once a routine affair, raising the debt ceiling is now a political weapon of choice used by Republicans to attack Democrats – even though both sides have been responsible for the accumulation of debt.
“Democrats will do the responsible thing – the right thing, the thing that has been done for decades by both parties – and vote yes,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.
He called the Republican opposition “unbalanced”.
McConnell has said he wants to fund the government and prevent a devastating default, but wants to force Democrats to split the package in half and vote alone on the politically uncomfortable debt ceiling.
“Republicans are not in favor of closing or going over the debt limit,” he said.
The House began debating the public works bill late Monday, and although it has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate, Republican House leaders are reluctant to back it. Donald Trump, the former president who tried unsuccessfully for an infrastructure deal when he was in the White House, is rallying opposition to it.
As Pelosi met privately with House Democrats on Monday, it was clear she was moving forward to move forward on Biden’s larger package as quickly as possible.
Biden’s proposal is to be funded by increasing the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 26.5% for companies making more than $ 5 million per year, and increasing the top rate for individuals by 37% at 39.6% for those earning more than $ 400,000 per year. year, or $ 450,000 for couples.
While Democrats largely agree on Biden’s vision – many have campaigned on the party’s long-standing priorities – stubborn differences remain, including over how to promote cleaner energy or reduce costs for people. prescription drugs.
Associated Press editors Hope Yen, Alan Fram and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
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