House and Senate Democrats are preparing for a string of spending showdowns that could blow up the Biden agenda and leave the party even more politically vulnerable ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
House Democratic leaders are hoping to overcome internal differences to pass a two-part spending package that would fund both infrastructure and a broad array of new social welfare programs.
The package is critical to the Biden administration and Democrats who desperately need a legislative win to counter the president’s sagging poll numbers.
But an internal battle between centrists and liberals threatens to derail both bills indefinitely, even though Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would consider both measures next week.
Meanwhile, Democrats face another fiscal showdown across the Capitol.
House Democrats passed a measure to extend government funding beyond a Sept. 30 deadline and attached a provision to suspend the nation’s borrowing limit until December 2022.
No House Republicans voted for the bill, and the Senate GOP has vowed to block it when it comes up for a vote next week.
Republicans say they won’t back a debt limit increase now that Democrats are working to pass the $3.5 trillion social welfare spending package unilaterally, calling the legislation reckless and hurtful for the economy.
Senate Democrats can’t pass the package unless they win at least 10 GOP votes, so the bill is poised to fail just a few days ahead of the end of the fiscal year.
Without passing a stopgap spending bill by the end of September, the government would have to endure a partial shutdown.
At the same time, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress the government would start defaulting on loans in October without a debt ceiling increase.
House and Senate Republicans are watching from the sidelines, confident the public will not blame their party for the fiscal standoff and its consequences.
“The only people that will get any blame for this is the Democrats and their management,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, told reporters Thursday.
Democrats are weighing backup plans in the likely event Republicans block the debt ceiling and government funding package.
The measure also includes emergency spending for states damaged by summer storms and wildfires, as well as money for Afghan refugees resettling in the United States.
Senate Republicans introduced a bill that includes all of those provisions, including government funding. However, it excludes the debt ceiling.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Democrats have the votes and the legislative authority to pass a debt limit increase without Republicans. He disputed claims by Democrats they lack time to take up the debt ceiling and pass it with only 51 votes in the Senate.
“If they want to tax, borrow, and spend historic sums of money without our input, they’ll have to raise the debt limit without our help,” McConnell said. “This is the reality. I’ve been saying this very clearly since July. And I think our Democratic colleagues are finally getting it. Because now they’re fumbling for bogus excuses.”
House Democratic leaders plan to focus next week on getting the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan to Biden’s desk.
The Senate passed the measure with Democratic and Republican votes earlier this year, and Pelosi promised centrists in her caucus she’d bring up the bill by the end of September.
Biden is eager to sign the bill and declare a legislative win after helping negotiate the bill with a bipartisan group of senators.
Biden’s approval numbers have been in steep decline amid a chaotic scene involving thousands of illegal immigrants at the southern border, a bungled military withdrawal from Afghanistan, struggles to respond to the COVID-19 delta variant, and rising inflation.
Pelosi emphasized the president in a memo to lawmakers Friday morning, promising to bring up both the infrastructure bill and the larger social welfare spending package next week.
“We are moving forward to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, which reflects Democrats’ vision for the future,” Pelosi said.
With time running out, the Democratic-run House Budget Committee will convene in a rare Saturday session to advance the $3.5 trillion package to the House floor for the promised vote next week.
The measure would provide free community college, free preschool, expanded Medicare benefits, paid family and medical leave, extended child tax credits, green energy policies, and more.
While most of the Democratic caucus supports the bill, few believe it stands a chance in the Senate, where a small group of centrists opposes the cost and the planned tax increases that would come with it. They also object to some policy changes, such as allowing the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices.
Liberal Democrats said on Friday they won’t back the infrastructure bill until the social welfare legislation passes the House and Senate, which could delay the entire package by weeks, if not longer.
Pelosi was noncommittal when asked whether the infrastructure bill could pass next week.
“We're bringing the bill up,” Pelosi said. “We will have a vote when we have the votes.”
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Original Author: Susan Ferrechio
Original Location: Democrats set up spending showdowns next week