President Joe Biden’s economic agenda faces a pivotal day in Congress Wednesday, with the prospects growing of an embarrassing setback for his infrastructure bill and markets beginning to take notice of the intensifying debt ceiling standoff with Republicans.
Senate Majority Chuck Schumer said he anticipates Congress will avert a government shutdown by passing a stopgap spending bill before current funding expires on Friday. But he was not as optimistic on efforts to suspend the debt ceiling, which Republicans have refused to do.
“We’re just asking Republicans to get out of the way,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that a default looms on Oct. 18 without congressional action.
Wall Street has been watching with trepidation. U.S. stocks suffered their worst rout Tuesday since May, and a gauge of market volatility hit the highest in a week before receding on Wednesday.
Congress appears to be working toward averting a shutdown of non-essential government functions after the end of the fiscal year on Thursday. The Senate as soon as Wednesday plans to take up the stopgap spending bill extending funding through Dec. 3 and providing billions in disaster aid and funds for Afghan refugees. The House plans to quickly follow suit.
Democrats earlier attempted to use the stopgap measure as a vehicle for a debt ceiling suspension but Republicans blocked that effort in the Senate.
For now Democrats plan to fight the public perception war. They plan to pass a standalone debt limit bill in the House to highlight the issue and continue to seek GOP consent in the Senate to pass the debt limit with just 51 votes instead of the usual 60 votes.
Republicans continue to press Democrats to use the same fast-track budget process to raise the debt ceiling without GOP support they plan to use for the tax and spending measure that encompasses much of Biden’s agenda.
Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces an agonizing choice of when to hold a vote on the $550 billion infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
Pelosi has promised moderates in her caucus a Thursday vote on the bill, a top priority for swing-district Democrats. Progressives however have doubled down on their threat to vote down the bill until the House and Senate passes a $3.5 trillion tax and spending measure that funds many of their priorities.
“I think if we come to a place where we have agreement in legislative language, not just principle but legislative language that the president supports,” Pelosi said, “and that I think we will come together.”
To unlock the second larger bill, the House is waiting on Senate moderates led by Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to reveal the price tag they’ll support. Manchin has hinted he could back $1.5 trillion while Sinema has been more circumspect.
Biden is personally negotiating with the two senators and canceled a trip to Chicago to continue those talks.
Without some deal between Biden and the moderates, it is increasingly likely that that the infrastructure bill will fail on the House floor or that Pelosi will pull it from the schedule. As a result, the entire Biden agenda could languish in Congress for months.News Source: BNN Bloomberg