Capitol Hill lawmakers are returning to work after the Thanksgiving holiday amid a stalemate of decisive votes that will provide another crucial test of Joe Biden’s political power as Christmas approaches.
After the president enacted a bipartisan $ 1.2 billion infrastructure bill earlier this month, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged to pass the second flagship component of the agenda. Biden Legislature – a $ 1.75 billion investment in the U.S. social safety net – by December. 25, a tall order given the long list of issues that still divide his party.
At the same time, time is running out for Democrats to strike several deals with Republicans to avoid a federal government shutdown, avoid default, and continue funding the U.S. military – all before the end of the year.
Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator from Minnesota, likened the impending “drama” to a “miniseries,” but insisted Democrats could go through their checklist in the coming weeks.
“A little less talk and a lot more action. . . that’s what we’ll need next month, ”Klobuchar told ABC News on Sunday.
The first big deadline will come this Friday, when lawmakers in both houses of Congress will have to agree to continue funding the government or risk a shutdown that would leave hundreds of thousands of federal employees unemployed.
Democrats have indicated that they intend to introduce as early as Tuesday a “continuing resolution”, or interim measure, that would fund the government for several more weeks, pushing the way forward until later this month or perhaps. be next year.
The other major funding shortage for lawmakers comes in the form of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill to fund the U.S. military that is often the subject of political wrangling as lawmakers frequently try to add unrelated amendments.
Schumer sought to push the legislation forward on Monday night, but his efforts were halted by Republicans who said more debate was needed.
“Nothing less than the safety of the American people is at stake,” said Mitch McConnell, Republican Minority Leader in the Senate. “It’s more important than political calendars for partisan wish lists.”
The budget battles are fought under the shadow of an even greater economic threat: the fact that the US government is on a collision course to exceed its debt limit as early as next month.
“The debt ceiling is an X factor that could cloud the entire December agenda,” said Ben Koltun, research director at Beacon Policy Advisors.
Janet Yellen, US Secretary of the Treasury, pleaded for Congress to act quickly to raise the debt ceiling to avert financial catastrophe, warning the government of the risks of facing “insufficient remaining resources” after the 15th. December.
Lawmakers have been engaged in a pool game over the loan limit for months, with Republicans insisting that Democrats “go it alone” to raise the debt ceiling using a complex legislative process called reconciliation, and the party of the President declaring that he needs the support of the GOP to continue.
Independent analysts have suggested that the government may have several weeks or even a month beyond government projections before risking a default.
But the looming risk is already worrying investors, with recent auctions of short-term US debt suggesting that some market participants are looking to limit their exposure to Treasuries that are maturing as congressional negotiations could enter a critical period. .
Even if a debt ceiling deal can be reached, that still leaves Biden’s Build Back Better bill, a massive $ 1.75 billion program to invest in early childhood education, health policy and climate policies, to be completed in the coming weeks.
Schumer on Monday reiterated his intention to pass the bill, which cleared the House earlier this month, by Christmas, even as West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin and others rang the bell. the alarm.
All 50 Democratic senators – including Arizona’s Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – will have to sign the law if it is to become law.
Manchin declined to commit to the Christmas calendar on Monday, telling reporters when asked if the bill should be considered in January: “We’ll wait and see what we have.”
However, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, issued an optimistic note, telling reporters that senior White House officials had been “in close contact” with lawmakers.
“I can assure you that we are moving forward at full speed to achieve this and we expect action to be taken in the coming weeks,” she added.
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