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Democrats Move To Avert Shutdown, But Division Imperatives Biden’s Agenda

Democrats Move To Avert Shutdown, But Division Imperatives Biden’s Agenda
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Democrats Move To Avert Shutdown, But Division Imperatives Biden’s Agenda

Democrats Move To Avert Shutdown, But Division Imperatives Biden’s Agenda

WASHINGTON — Democrats drafted legislation Wednesday to block a government shutdown this week, but they were desperately trying to salvage President Biden’s domestic agenda, as conservative-leaning holdouts dented an ambitious $3.5 trillion social safety net. and had dug up against the climate bill, which included many in the party. top priorities.

Congress leaders moved to address the most immediate threat, working at midnight on Thursday to complete a bill to prevent the default of government funding. Yet after intense negotiations to bridge bitter differences in their party over Mr Biden’s two biggest legislative priorities, the president and top Democrats appeared to be forever out of an agreement on their marquee social policy package, which the White House calls a build back. Is. better plan.

That, in turn, was affecting a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was set for a House vote on Thursday.

The fate of the two measures could define the success of Mr Biden’s presidency, and the intense conversation surrounding him has tested his skills as a deal maker, which he called a calling card during his campaign for the White House. as was exposed. But after several days of private meetings with lawmakers in the Oval Office and calling key players, Mr Biden was left with little of a deal.

Dramatizing the challenge, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, a key holdout on the social policy bill, issued a lengthy and strongly worded statement Wednesday evening, reiterating his opposition to the currently-constituted resolution, saying that This is “fiscal madness”.

“While I hope common ground can be found that will result in another historic investment in our country, I cannot support trillions in spending – or an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality of our country. Manchin wrote, denouncing a view that he said would be “venomously taxed for wishful spending.”

The statement was the polar opposite of what Mr Biden and top Democrats had hoped to remove from Mr Manchin and other centrist critics of the bill by the end of the week – a firm public commitment to eventually vote for the social policy measure, in order to pacify the liberals. who wish to ensure its enactment.

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Instead, it further enraged progressives, who were already pledging to oppose the infrastructure bill until Congress worked out a larger social policy plan, which Democrats called a fast-track. Planned to proceed using the process known as budget reconciliation. They are pressing to push the infrastructure vote until after votes on the reconciliation bill — or, at the very least, after centrist holdouts provide a firm understanding of what they will accept in that package.

“I think he’s saying the president is crazy, because this is the president’s agenda,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, Washington’s Democrat and leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said of Manchin. “Look, that’s why we’re not voting for that bipartisan bill until we get a conciliation bill. It’s clear we have a way to go.”

“Let me tell you, after that statement, we probably have even more people willing to vote ‘no’ on the bipartisan bill,” she said.

The standoff did not explain the fate of the infrastructure measure. While a handful of centrist Republicans plan to support it, GOP leaders are urging their members to oppose it, barring Democrats, who lack the votes to pass the bill if there is a progressive rebellion.

“The plan is to get the bill on the floor,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, returning to Capitol Hill after a huddle at the White House with Mr Biden and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader. Asked if he was worried about the votes, he said, “One hour at a time.”

Soon after the House passed legislation lifting the statutory limit on federal borrowing until December 16, 2022, it attempted to avert a catastrophic federal loan default next month, when the Treasury Department says it will breach current caps. .

Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to link the increase with a spending bill to keep the government funded, and are likely to oppose the House-passed bill, which was voted to nearly 219 to 212 on Wednesday. Was approved on -line vote. Still, the move signaled that Democrats were ready to act separately on the government’s funding measure, explaining a shutdown, even as the debt limit remains unresolved.

But much of the urgency on Wednesday was focused on salvaging the president’s agenda, when Mr Biden and his aides on Wednesday approved his program in an effort to broker a deal among Democrats.

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Some Democrats have complained this week that the president has not engaged in talks to their satisfaction. For example, he welcomed groups of progressives and moderates to the White House last week, but met with each separately as opposed to holding group talks sessions.

And efforts by Mr Biden and his team to pressure Mr Manchin and Arizona Senator Kirsten Cinema, another Democratic holdout on the reconciliation bill, have failed. Officials have been working for several days to persuade the pair to specify how much they would be willing to spend on the package, calculating that such a commitment would allay the concerns of progressives who now refusing to support the bill.

Ms Cinema and Mr Manchin both visited the White House on Tuesday, but after their meetings, neither he nor White House officials will calculate the outline of a bill they might support. Top White House officials also visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday and met in private with Ms. Cinema for more than two hours.

“The president felt it was constructive, he felt he pushed the ball, there was an agreement, that we are at a critical moment,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s important to continue to finalize the way forward for the American people to find work.”

White House officials said Mr Biden held talks with various lawmakers throughout the day on Wednesday and plans to continue them on Thursday.

Privately, administration officials said Biden was playing an encouraging role with Mr Manchin and Ms Cinema, and was not demanding that they agree to anything immediately. Both senators have yet to do so publicly, with even liberal Democrats publicly fuming over austerity.

In his statement on Wednesday, Mr Manchin said he wanted to set income limits for several social program expansions proposed by Democrats. He suggested that he be prepared to undo some components of the 2017 tax cut.

Moderate House Democrats, who this week helped secure a commitment to a vote on the infrastructure bill, warned that a failed vote would worsen an already deep distrust between the two factions of the party.

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“If the vote fails tomorrow or is delayed, there will be a significant breach of trust that will slow the momentum going forward on delivering the Biden agenda,” said Florida Representative Stephanie Murphy, one of the moderates. had demanded. two plans.

Even as he worked to address philosophical differences in his party on the bill, Democrats were dealt another blow Wednesday when the Senate’s top rule enforcer raised nearly eight million unspecified funds in a reconciliation bill. Rejected a second proposal to include a passage of legal status for immigrants. .

In a memo obtained by The New York Times, Senate MP Elizabeth McDonough wrote that the policy change “significantly outweighed its budgetary impact,” effectively disqualifying it from being included in a measure whose content has been disqualified. There should be a direct impact on the federal budget.

In their latest effort, Democrats proposed moving the date forward for a process known as the Immigration Registry, which allows otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants to adjust their status and apply for citizenship. Have been in the United States continuously since a certain date in order to obtain a route to. . The current date, established in 1986, has been set as January 1, 1972. Democrats sought to change that date to January 1, 2010.

Last week, Ms McDonough rejected Democrats’ initial proposal to give legal status to several categories of unspecified people, including those brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers. Is; immigrants who were granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons; people working in the country under a non-immigrant visa; About one million farmers; And millions more who are deemed “essential workers”.

He said the changes to immigration law could not be included in the reconciliation package under Senate rules because they represent a “tremendous and permanent policy change that minimizes its budgetary impact.”

Democrats said they would continue to seek alternative strategies to assist immigrants through the reconciliation process.

luke broadwater And Jonathan Weisman Contributed reporting.

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