Biden, Congress face big week for agenda, government funding

Hope Yen And Lisa Mascaro Associated Press
Monday, September 27, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a consequential week for President Joe Biden’s agenda, as Democratic leaders trim back his $3.5 trillion tax and spending package to win over remaining lawmakers and work to quickly pass legislation to avoid a federal shutdown.

Biden’s domestic agenda is hanging in the balance, at risk of collapse and political fallout if he and Democratic leaders cannot pull their party together to deliver what could be a signature piece of legislation and the biggest overhaul of government priorities in decades. Over the weekend, Biden personally spoke with lawmakers on possible steps, according to a White House official who requested anonymity to discuss the private conversations.

An expected Monday vote on a related $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package is now postponed until Thursday, amid ongoing negotiations. More immediately, the Senate has a test vote set Monday to keep the government funded and avert a federal debt default before Thursday’s fiscal yearend deadline. That measure stands to run into a blockade by Republican senators — ensuring lawmakers will have to try again later in the week.

“Let me just say, it’s an eventful week,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are deep into negotiations over the president’s broader proposal, which is being chiseled back to win over key senators and a few House lawmakers who have so far refused the $3.5 trillion price tag and the tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to pay for it.

Behind-the-scenes talks churned, allowing for needed breathing room after Monday’s anticipated vote on the companion $1 trillion public works measure was postponed. The two bills are related, and centrists and progressive factions are at odds at prioritizing one ahead of the other. Pelosi announced the Thursday vote in a letter late Sunday evening to colleagues, noting it’s also a deadline for related transportation programs in the infrastructure bill.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., who led a group of House moderates in a securing a vote on the slimmer infrastructure bill, said earlier Sunday he wouldn’t be bothered by a slight delay. He was optimistic both pieces of legislation could be resolved this week.

The more difficult action now lies in the Senate, as Democrats are under pressure to amass the votes for Biden’s big package. It would provide an expansion of existing health, education and child care programs for Americans young and old, alongside new federal efforts to curb climate change.

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