September 30, 2021
By David Morgan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda appeared to be at risk in the U.S. Congress on Thursday, as his fellow Democrats struggled to line up support for a plan to double spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives had a one-word answer when reporters asked if he was confident the $1 trillion bill would pass in a vote scheduled later in the day.
“Nope,” said Representative Steny Hoyer.
Failure would be a stinging setback for Biden, as the infrastructure bill has already passed the Senate with Republican and Democratic support.
But it risked falling victim to an impasse between Democratic moderates and progressives over a multitrillion-dollar bill that would bolster social services and tackle climate change. Progressives have said they will not vote for the infrastructure bill unless they feel certain their priorities will be reflected in the social-spending bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had earlier promised moderates a vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill this week, predicted the party would ultimately resolve its differences.
“We are in a good place right now, we are making progress,” she said at a news conference. But she, too, declined to say whether it would pass on Thursday.
With razor-thin majorities in Congress, Democrats cannot afford to lose many votes if they want to pass their agenda. And they are unlikely to win much support from House Republicans eager to take back the majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
Meanwhile, Congress was poised to approve new government funding through Dec. 3, which would head off the risk of a partial government shutdown when current funding expires at midnight.
Both the House and the Senate were expected to pass the temporary funding bill by that deadline.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said members of his party support that legislation.
Besides keeping government operations running, the stopgap spending bill would provide aid for communities hard hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. Money to help Afghan refugees is included as well.
Yet another battle, with graver consequences, was percolating in Congress.
Democrats and Republicans continued brawling over giving the Treasury Department additional borrowing authority, beyond the current statutory limit of $28.4 trillion. A historic debt default could occur around Oct. 18, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has estimated, if Congress fails to act.
Republicans want no part of the debt limit increase, saying it is Democrats’ problem since they control Congress and the White House.
The House late on Wednesday approved a bill suspending the debt limit through December 2022. The Senate could vote on it “as early as next week,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, but Republicans are expected to block it again.
Yellen said on Thursday it would be a “catastrophe” if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.
The uncertainty is starting to filter into financial markets, though few believe the nation will ultimately default.
At the same time, Democrats showed no sign of resolving an intraparty dispute that threatens both the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and the social-investment bill, which has an initial price tag of $3.5 trillion.
House Democrats urged centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to say publicly what they can live with in the social-spending bill. Both have said it is too large but have not made a counteroffer.
Manchin said in a statement late Wednesday that it is “the definition of fiscal insanity” to spend more money when Washington already does not collect enough revenue to pay for existing safety-net programs.
He also told reporters that negotiations could take weeks or more to complete. That could further complicate Democrats’ hopes of passing the infrastructure bill, which would roughly double spending on roads, airports and other projects that the business community supports.
The looming debt crisis is rattling Americans on both sides of the political spectrum, according to an Ipsos national opinion poll conducted for Reuters on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It showed that 65% of adults, including eight in 10 Democrats and five in 10 Republicans, are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that Congress will fail to reach a debt deal in time.
The poll also found that 30% think congressional Republicans 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 reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Chris Kahn; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)
Source Link Are Democrats confident Biden’s infrastructure bill will pass? ‘Nope’