WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats enter a pivotal week as lawmakers scramble to finalize two of Biden’s legislative priorities and stave off a government shutdown that could be days away.
The House will begin debate Monday on Biden’s $1 trillion collection of roadway and other infrastructure projects. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has scheduled a final vote on the bill for Thursday.
Biden and Democrats continue negotiations to resolve internal divisions over a separate $3.5 trillion package of proposals to strengthen the social safety net and climate programs.
The collapse of either piece of legislation could cripple much of Biden’s domestic agenda. The fate of both bills remains in doubt.
The infrastructure package cleared the Senate and awaits final approval in the House. Pelosi had committed to a vote Monday, but liberal Democrats said they won’t back that legislation until Congress advances the larger so-called reconciliation bill.
Pelosi delayed the vote until Thursday but predicted it would pass.
“I'm never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes. … You have to go when you have the votes in a reasonable time, and we will,” she said Sunday on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-chairman the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group that tries to foster bipartisan cooperation, expressed confidence that Democrats would have the votes needed to approve the infrastructure legislation.
“Every single Democrat in the House voted to bring it to the floor for a vote this week,” he said Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union." “We're going to do it. We're going to have the votes. It will come up tomorrow, and we're going to vote this week, early this week.”
Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have worked behind the scenes to resolve differences among Democrats over the price of the separate package of social and climate change proposals.
Many moderate Democrats want to cut the $3.5 trillion reconciliationlegislation and reshape some of its programs. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been among the most visible centrists demanding a smaller price tag.
Republicans said the proposal is unneeded and unaffordable and reflects Democrats’ drive to insert government into people’s lives. The Democrats’ thin majorities in the House and the Senate mean compromise will be needed.
Biden conceded Friday that talks among Democrats were at a “stalemate.” A collapse of the measure at his own party’s hands would come on the heels of last week’s breakdown of bipartisan talks on police reform, which ended without agreement on a bill to hold police accountable for violence in the line of duty. Biden had made signing police reform legislation a priority of his administration.
A collapse of the social safety net bill, in addition to the failed police reform talks, would almost certainly become issues in the next year’s elections in which House and Senate control are at stake.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a lead negotiator for House liberals, said Sunday that Democrats have not seen any negotiation from the Senate on the more expensive package.
“If somebody wants less than $3.5 trillion, tell us what you want to cut,” Jayapal said on CBS' "Face the Nation." “Do you want to cut the child care? Do you want to cut paid leave? What is it you want to cut? And then let's figure it out from there.”
Pelosi conceded the price tag would be lower than $3.5 trillion. “That seems self-evident,” she said, adding that even those who want a smaller number support Biden’s vision.
Potential Oct. 1 government shutdown looms
Besides trying to finish work on both bills, lawmakers face the possibility of a government shutdown this week. Congress must pass an appropriations bill by Thursday, or government funding will lapse, triggering a shutdown.
The White House advised federal agencies last week to prepare for the first government shutdown of the COVID-19 era.
Pelosi vowed Sunday that a shutdown would be avoided.
"Let me just say it's an eventful week. ... We have to make sure we keep government open," she said, "and we will."
Michael Collins and Matthew Brown cover the White House. Follow Collins on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS and Brown @mrbrownsir.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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