Congress Is On Track To Avoid A Shutdown, But Other Standoffs Persist

30September 2021

Congress is moving to avert one crisis while putting off another. The Senate approved legislation Thursday that would fund the federal government through Dec. 3.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Patrick Semansky/AP

Congress is on a path to avoiding a government shutdown after the Senate voted 65-35 to approve a short-term funding bill.

The legislation would keep the government funded through Dec. 3. The bill also includes $28.6 billion for communities hit by natural disasters over the past 18 months and $6.3 billion to help support resettlement for Afghan refugees.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill late Thursday and send it to President Biden ahead of a midnight deadline. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she expects strong support from both parties.

But any good feelings and bipartisanship from that vote aren’t expected to extend to other pressing legislation, such as addressing the debt limit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has insisted that Republicans will not help Democrats pass any legislation to increase the federal borrowing cap. The Treasury Department estimates the federal government is at risk of default if Congress does not act in the next few weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Patrick Semansky/AP

“As I’ve explained since July, Democrats need to begin the fast-track process for handling that issue through reconciliation,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Clumsy attempts at partisan jams by the majority will not change that reality.”

Democrats are also facing divisions within their own party that threaten to derail the vast majority of Biden’s domestic agenda.

There’s still a serious rift on infrastructure and a $3.5 trillion spending package

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, but leaders must first overcome a serious rift between centrist and progressive Democrats. Progressives are insisting they will not vote for the bipartisan bill without an agreement on a separate multitrillion-dollar social spending package.

Moderate Democrats have said they do not support the top-line figure of $3.5 trillion. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., reiterated Thursday that he’s willing to go as high as $1.5 trillion.

“I’m willing to sit down and work through that $1.5 [trillion] to get our priorities,” Manchin said.

He added that if other Democrats want to do more than that they can campaign on it and do it later. “I think there is many ways to get to where they want to, just not everything at one time.”

Democrats need to be in near-unanimous agreement for either bill to pass.

Pelosi told reporters she is still negotiating with both sides. And she offered an upbeat assessment when asked if she still plans to hold the vote.

“I’m only envisioning taking it up and winning it,” Pelosi said. “I do not plan on not doing anything. I plan on moving forward in a positive way.”

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