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Infrastructure, Spending Negotiations At Standstill

Provided By - Video Elephant on September 28, 2021
Republican senators blocked a bill to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown pledged to try again at the same time pressing ahead on President Joe Biden's big plans to reshape government.The efforts are not necessarily linked, but the fiscal year-end deadline to fund the government past Thursday is bumping up against the Democrats' desire to make progress on President Biden's expansive $3.5 trillion federal overhaul.It's all making for a tumultuous moment for President Biden and his party, with consequences certain to shape his presidency and the lawmakers' own political futures."You know me, I'm a born optimist,"  President Biden told reporters Monday, as he rolled up his sleeve for a COVID-19 booster shot. "We're gonna get it done."Monday's 50-48 vote against taking up the bill fell well short of the 60 needed to proceed over a GOP filibuster. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switched his vote to "no," a procedural step to allow him to bring the measure back for consideration.With days to go, Democrats said they will try again before Thursday's deadline to pass a bill funding government operations past the Sept. 30 fiscal year-end, stripping out the debate over the debt limit for another day, closer to a separate October deadline.Meanwhile, the real action is unfolding behind the scenes over the $3.5 trillion measure, with President Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress seeking a once-in-a-generation reworking of the nation's balance sheets.From free pre-kindergarten and child care subsidies for families with small children to dental care and hearing aids for seniors with Medicare, there's a lot in the president's proposal all to be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.With Republicans solidly opposed, Democrats are rushing to trim the total and win holdouts within their own party."We just have to make difficult choices," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats during an evening caucus meeting, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private session.As the overall price tag comes down, Speaker Pelosi said the president is "working on that piece," referring to talks underway with the Senate. Speaker Pelosi said the House Democrats would not move ahead on a bill until it is acceptable to their colleagues in the Senate. "We're not there yet," she said.Exiting the caucus meeting, Democratic Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said as momentum builds toward Thursday, he was expecting a new total amount: "Let's pop the number."Building on a separate $1 trillion bipartisan public works package that's already cleared the Senate and is heading for a House vote Thursday, President Biden is seeking major spending for health care, education and efforts to tackle climate change. The total price tag, he contends, is actually "zero" covered by the expected increase in tax revenue.He is personally calling fellow Democrats in Congress an effort to resolve differences and bring his sweeping domestic policy vision forward.Ticking off the weighty list of goals along with meeting the other deadlines, President Biden said, "If we do that, the country's going to be in great shape."But Republicans say it's real spending that can't be afforded, and a reflection of the Democrats' drive to insert government into people's lives.And so far, the bill is also too big for key Democrats whose votes are needed in the face of the GOP opposition. Two Democratic holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they won't support a bill of that size. Manchin has previously proposed spending of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.Progressive lawmakers said they've already compromised enough with more centrist Democrats, but in one potential development, Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, confirmed she and Sinema have been in talks.President Biden's proposal is to be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 26.5% on businesses earning more than $5 million a year, and raising the top rate on individuals from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.While Democrats are largely in agreement on President Biden's vision many ran their campaigns on the longstanding party priorities stubborn disputes remain, including how to push toward cleaner energy or to lower prescription drug costs.With all Republicans opposed, Democratic leaders can't spare a single vote in the 50-50 Senate, relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie to pass the eventual package.All this comes as other deadlines swirl this week to pay for government operations


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