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Senate returns to busy to-do list as Biden’s agenda faces crucial stretch

WASHINGTON – The Senate returns on Monday after a month-long hiatus from a busy schedule, including deadlines to keep government open and a crucial stretch for President Joe Biden’s national agenda.

Congress must fund the government by September 30 or face a shutdown.

Flood insurance and ground transportation measures expire at the end of the month.

Biden has asked for $ 24 billion for disaster relief from Hurricane Ida and the wildfires.

The debt limit must be raised before the October deadline, according to the Treasury Department, to avoid catastrophic economic consequences.

And it’s time for Biden’s national priorities – crafting a $ 3.5 trillion package to extend the social safety net and raise taxes on top earners, as well as to give the final pass to a $ 550 infrastructure bill. billions of dollars.

Manchin vs. Sanders

House Democrats have set a deadline of September 27 to vote on the Senate infrastructure bill, but its prospects for passage may hinge on the preparation of the larger bill, as progressives have threatened to reject it otherwise.

House committees rush to mark their parts of the bill. But they may not be done on time.

“There is no way we can do this by the 27th if we do our job. There are so many differences that we have here,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a decisive vote on the multibillion dollar bill. Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union”.

Asked about threats from progressives to block the infrastructure bill, which he co-wrote, without reconciliation, Manchin said that if they “play politics with America’s needs, I can say America will back down.

He said he was in favor of increasing the corporate tax rate to 25% and the capital gains tax rate to 28%, as well as a minimum corporate tax of 15%. The level of the tax hikes will also be controversial, as Democrats have to rally nearly all of their members in both chambers.

Manchin did not say what provisions of the new package he would oppose in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. But it has poured cold water on some of the climate change targets that are a priority for the left, as well as the White House and Democratic leaders.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Responded to Manchin on CNN, saying: “Many of us have made a major compromise by passing the $ 6 trillion bill that we wanted, supported by the overwhelming majority of Democrats, at 3.5 [trillion]. “

He said the budget bill must evolve “in tandem” with infrastructure.

“And it would be a really sad situation for the American people, for Congress, if these two bills were defeated,” Sanders said.

A debt limit conflict

Republicans say Democrats should raise the debt limit in the budget reconciliation bill, which may escape obstruction, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Has firmly rejected it. idea last week.

That means he would have to go through the normal process, requiring at least 10 Republican votes to break an obstruction in the Senate. Democrats plan to tie the debt ceiling to a government funding bill, which is guaranteed against the GOP’s backsliding.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said his party does not support extending the borrowing limit if Democrats pursue a $ 3.5 trillion budget bill. A spokesperson for McConnell intervened after Pelosi’s remarks, saying it would be a crisis of the Democrats’ “own making”.

Other hot spots to watch out for

The government’s funding bill is also expected to include Biden’s disaster relief requests, as well as money to resettle refugees from Afghanistan following the US withdrawal. The administration’s exit from Afghanistan drew criticism from Republicans and some Democratic allies of Biden, who indicated there would be an investigation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said the chamber will review voting rights legislation upon his return.

And the Senate appears ready to debate Biden’s new Covid-19 vaccination requirements, which cover millions of people, many in the private sector.

Meanwhile, congressional leaders are holding briefings ahead of a far-right rally scheduled for next Saturday, which aims to support those who participated in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

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