WASHINGTON - Two key parts of President Biden's domestic agenda are in jeopardy with progressive and centrist Democrats still unable to reach an agreement on what could be a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan. With Senate moderates putting the brakes on the plan, the Democrats are in disarray.
"We're obviously at a precarious and important time in these discussions," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Wednesday.
Most Democrats support the separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to shore up roads, bridges, power plants, and internet. It cleared the Senate with bipartisan support in July. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is encouraging progressive House Democrats to withhold their support for it until they have assurances the Senate will pass the Democrat-only budget reconciliation bill, too.
"If we just go forward with the physical infrastructure bill, it is very possible that nothing will happen with reconciliation and that would be a terrible shame," Sanders said.
Moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) released a statement Wednesday night arguing "that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can't even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity." Manchin added that he "can't support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may withdraw a planned vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was scheduled for today if she feels it won't pass due to progressives withholding their support, and she won't bring the larger $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill to the House floor for a vote if she's not confident it will pass the Senate, too.
"We're not proceeding with anything that doesn't have agreement between the House and the Senate," Pelosi told reporters.
Debt Ceiling Dispute
On a separate but very important matter, Senate Democrats also need to find a path forward to raising the debt ceiling without GOP support before the U.S. runs out of money to pay its bills in mid-October, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claims to do so through budget reconciliation isn't an option.
"Individual senators could move to delay and delay and delay – it is very risky and could well lead us to default even if only one senator wanted that to happen. You can't do it this route, everyone who's studied it knows it is risky," said Schumer on the Senate floor.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. will hit its debt limit on October 18.
No Government Shutdown
For now, the only good news for President Biden is that Congress will avert a government shut down at midnight Thursday. The Senate and House both voted on Thursday to prevent that partial government shutdown.
But raising the debt ceiling, passing infrastructure, and passing his funding bill are still very much up in the air.