GOP Blocks Bill to Keep Gov't Going 09/28 06:05
Republican senators blocked a bill to keep the government operating and
allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown pledged to
try again -- at the same time pressing ahead on President Joe Biden's big plans
to reshape government.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican senators blocked a bill to keep the government
operating and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown
pledged to try again -- at the same time pressing ahead on President Joe
Biden's big plans to reshape government.
The efforts are not necessarily linked, but the fiscal yearend deadline to
fund the government past Thursday is bumping up against the Democrats' desire
to make progress on Biden's expansive $3.5 trillion federal overhaul.
It's all making for a tumultuous moment for Biden and his party, with
consequences certain to shape his presidency and the lawmakers' own political
Success would mean a landmark accomplishment, if Democrats can helm Biden's
big bill to passage. Failure -- or a highly unlikely government shutdown and
debt crisis -- could derail careers.
"You know me, I'm a born optimist," Biden told reporters Monday, as he
rolled up his sleeve for a COVID-19 booster shot. "We're gonna get it done."
Monday's 50-48 vote against taking up the bill fell well short of the 60
needed to proceed over a GOP filibuster. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck
Schumer switched his vote to "no," a procedural step to allow him to bring the
measure back for consideration, which he said would happen this week.
With days to go, Democrats said they will try again before Thursday's
deadline to pass a bill funding government operations past the Sept. 30 fiscal
yearend, stripping out the debate over the debt limit for another day, closer
to a separate October deadline.
Meanwhile, the real action is unfolding behind the scenes over the $3.5
trillion measure, with Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress seeking a
once-in-a-generation reworking of the nation's balance sheets.
From free pre-kindergarten and child care subsidies for families with small
children to dental care and hearing aids for seniors with 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 solidly opposed, Democrats are rushing to trim the total
and win holdouts within their own party.
"We just have to make difficult choices," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House
Democrats during an evening caucus meeting, according to a person granted
anonymity to discuss the private session.
As the overall price tag comes down, Pelosi said the president is "working
on that piece," referring to talks underway with the Senate. Despite the rush
to amass votes, Pelosi said the House Democrats would not move ahead on a bill
until it is acceptable to their colleagues in the Senate. "We're not there
yet," she said.
Exiting the caucus meeting, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the
Way & Means Committee, said as momentum builds toward Thursday, he was
expecting a new total amount: "Let's pop the number."
Building on a separate $1 trillion bipartisan public works package that's
already cleared the Senate and is heading for a House vote, also Thursday,
Biden is seeking major spending for health care, education and efforts to
tackle climate change. The total price tag, he contends, is actually "zero" --
covered by the expected increase in tax revenue.
He is personally calling fellow Democrats in Congress an effort to resolve
differences and bring his sweeping domestic policy vision forward.
Ticking off the weighty list of goals along with meeting the other
deadlines, Biden said, "If we do that, the country's going to be in great
Biden, Pelosi and Schumer conferred in the afternoon on the path forward and
will "continue their close coordination over the coming days," the White House
said in a readout of the call.
But Republicans say it's real spending that can't be afforded, and a
reflection of the Democrats' drive to insert government into people's lives.
And so far, the bill is also too big for key Democrats whose votes are
needed in the face of the GOP opposition. Two Democratic holdouts, Sens. Joe
Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they won't
support a bill of that size. Manchin has previously proposed spending of $1
trillion to $1.5 trillion.
Progressive lawmakers said they've already compromised enough with more
centrist Democrats, but in one potential development, Rep. Pramila Jayapal,
D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, confirmed she and
Sinema have been in talks.
With all Republicans opposed, Democratic leaders can't spare a single vote
in the 50-50 Senate, relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie to
pass the eventual package.
All this comes as other deadlines swirl this week to pay for government
operations and allow more borrowing or risk a devastating federal shutdown or
debt default -- though those dire scenarios appear unlikely.
The bill Senate Republicans rejected Monday night would have funded
government operations temporarily, to early December, while also providing
emergency funds for Hurricane Ida and other disaster relief and for Afghan
Republican leader Mitch McConnell rejected that approach because Democrats
also included a provision to suspend the debt limit, which would allow
continued borrowing to pay off the nation's bills.
Once a routine matter, raising the debt limit is now a political weapon of
choice wielded by Republicans to attack Democrats -- even though both parties
have been responsible for piling on debt.
"The Democrats will do the responsible thing -- the right thing, the thing
that has been done for decades by both parties -- and vote yes," said Schumer
ahead of the vote.
He called the Republican opposition "unhinged."
McConnell has said he wants to fund the government and prevent a devastating
debt default, but wants to force Democrats to split the package in two and take
the politically uncomfortable debt ceiling vote on their own.
"Republicans are not rooting for a shutdown or a debt limit breach," he said.
The House began debating the public works bill late Monday, and while it won
bipartisan support in the Senate, House Republican leaders are wary of
supporting it. Donald Trump, the former president who tried and failed to
secure an infrastructure deal when he was in the White House, is rallying
opposition to it.
As Pelosi huddled privately Monday with House Democrats, it was clear she is
pressing ahead to move as swiftly as possible on Biden's broader package.
Biden's proposal is to be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate,
from 21% to 26.5% on businesses earning more than $5 million a year, and
raising the top rate on individuals from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more
than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.
While Democrats are largely in agreement on Biden's vision -- many ran their
campaigns on the longstanding party priorities -- stubborn disputes remain,
including how to push toward cleaner energy or to lower prescription drug costs.