WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s national agenda appeared under threat in the U.S. Congress on Thursday, as fellow Democrats struggled to support a plan to double spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives had a one-word response when reporters asked him if he was convinced the $ 1,000 billion bill would pass in a vote scheduled later in the day.
“No,” Rep. Steny Hoyer said.
Failure would be a stinging setback for Biden, as the infrastructure bill has already passed the Senate with support from Republicans and Democrats.
But he risked falling victim to a standoff between moderate Democrats and progressives over a multibillion-dollar bill that would bolster social services and tackle climate change. Progressives have said they will not vote for the infrastructure bill unless they are sure their priorities will be reflected in the social spending bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who earlier promised moderates a vote on the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill this week, predicted the party would eventually resolve its differences.
“We are in a good position right now, we are making progress,” she told a press conference. But she, too, declined to say if it would pass on Thursday.
With very slim majorities in Congress, Democrats can’t afford to lose many votes if they are to get their platform through. And they’re unlikely to get much support from House Republicans keen to recapture a majority in the 2022 midterm election.
Meanwhile, Congress was set to approve new government funding until December 3, which would avoid the risk of a partial government shutdown when current funding expires at midnight.
The House and Senate were expected to pass the interim finance bill before that deadline.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said his party members support the legislation.
In addition to maintaining government operations, the interim spending bill would provide assistance to communities hard hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. Money to help Afghan refugees is also included.
THREAT TO THE DEBT CEILING
Another battle, with more serious consequences, was fought in Congress.
Democrats and Republicans have continued to fight to give the Treasury Department additional borrowing power, beyond the current legal limit of $ 28.4 trillion. A historic default could occur around Oct. 18, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said if Congress does not act.
Republicans don’t want any part of the debt limit increase, saying it’s the Democrats’ problem since they control Congress and the White House.
The House on Wednesday night approved a bill suspending the debt ceiling until December 2022. The Senate could vote it “as early as next week,” Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said, but Republicans should block it again.
Yellen said Thursday it would be a “disaster” if Congress did not raise the debt ceiling.
Uncertainty is starting to creep into financial markets, although few believe the nation will eventually default. Read more
At the same time, Democrats have shown no sign of resolving a dispute within the party that threatens both the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill and the social investment bill, the price of which is initial is $ 3.5 trillion.
House Democrats have urged centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to say publicly what they can live with in the social spending bill. Both said he was too tall but did not counter offer. Read more
Manchin said in a statement Wednesday night that it is “the definition of fiscal madness” to spend more money when Washington is not already raising enough revenue to pay for existing safety net programs.
He also told reporters that negotiations could take weeks or more. This could further complicate Democrats’ hopes of passing the infrastructure bill, which would roughly double spending on roads, airports and other business-backed projects.
The looming debt crisis is shaking Americans on both sides of the political spectrum, according to a national Ipsos opinion poll conducted for Reuters on Tuesday and Wednesday.
He showed that 65% of adults, including eight in 10 Democrats and five in 10 Republicans, are “very” or “a little” concerned that Congress will not reach a debt deal on time.
The poll also found that 30% think Republicans in Congress 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 reports by Jarrett Renshaw and Chris Kahn; written by Andy Sullivan; edited by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis
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