What is Congress doing? Deadlines loom for votes on government funding, debt limit and infrastructure

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WASHINGTON – Congressional deadlines are looming to extend funding for the federal government, increase the country's debt limit, and whether to approve $3.5 trillion for President Joe Biden's domestic agenda or $1.2 trillion for infrastructure, even as lawmakers have yet to come up with solutions.

Federal government funding runs out Thursday unless lawmakers approve a temporary extension proposed to Dec. 3. A shutdown would furlough hundreds of thousand of federal workers.

The country is projected to hit its cap on borrowing some time in October. If Congress doesn't raise the debt limit, economists say a default could be catastrophic and could set off a worldwide depression.

Meanwhile, lawmakers plan meetings over the weekend and a vote Monday on spending legislation that could become the largest bills ever approved.

Biden said Friday congressional negotiations over his agenda could take a while. The temporary extension for government funding is popular, but Republicans refuse to help Democrats raise the debt limit. The infrastructure bill is bipartisan, but only Democrats support the $3.5 trillion package.

"I think it's just going to take some time," Biden said. "This is a process and it's going to be up and down."

From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., update reporters on Democratic efforts to pass President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda, at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 23, 2021.
From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., update reporters on Democratic efforts to pass President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda, at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 23, 2021.

Here are key deadlines and players who will shape the next couple of weeks:

Democrats assemble $3.5 trillion spending package

The House Budget Committee meets Saturday at 2 p.m. to assemble pieces of Biden's domestic priorities such as universal prekindergarten and community college, and an expansion of Medicare – and the taxes to pay for them – from 13 committees.

"It moves the ball down the field," said Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky.

Once that panel is done, the House Rules Committee will determine how it will be debated on the House floor. Changes could still be made at that point to win Senate approval, too, before lawmakers start voting.

"We're all trying to get to a place where we have agreement between the House and the Senate and the White House," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who heads the Progressive Caucus.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Thursday that they and chairmen of the tax-writing committees had agreed to a menu of options for how to pay for the legislation.

"We came to an agreement of what the four of us could support," Schumer said. "It's a menu of options."

But they refused to say whether the bill will remain $3.5 trillion or which potential tax hikes could be chosen that haven't already been approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they won't support that much spending, and their opposition could kill the proposal.

Pelosi said Friday the legislation would be on the House floor during the next week.

“That’s the plan," she said.

House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth, D-Ky., talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington o Sept. 21, 2021.
House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth, D-Ky., talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington o Sept. 21, 2021.

House vote pending on infrastructure

Nine moderate House Democrats led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey won an agreement to vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill by Monday to avoid it becoming entangled with the $3.5 trillion package.

"It's definitely coming to the floor Monday," Gottheimer told reporters Friday. "Let me be clear: we've got the votes."

But progressive Democrats led by Jayapal oppose the measure unless it moves in tandem with the $3.5 trillion package.

Either faction could prevent approval of the other's priority – unless some Republicans join Democrats in approving infrastructure.

"It cannot pass," Jayapal told reporters Friday about infrastructure. "I don't bluff, I don't grandstand. We just don't have the votes for it. "

The Senate approved the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on a bipartisan, 69-30 vote, so House approval would send the bill to Biden.

"We will have a vote when we have the votes," Pelosi told reporters Friday.

President Joe Biden speaks May 12, 2021, during a meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. From left, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Vice President Kamala, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y.
President Joe Biden speaks May 12, 2021, during a meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. From left, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Vice President Kamala, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y.

Senate to vote on government funding, debt

Funding for the federal government runs out Thursday, at the end of the fiscal year. The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday at 5:30 p.m. on a bill to extend funding until Dec. 3, to give lawmakers more time to approve spending for an entire year.

But Democratic leaders combined the spending with a provision to suspend the debt limit until December 2022.

Republicans in both chambers refuse to support an increase in the debt limit because they weren't consulted on Democratic spending. If Republicans filibuster the measure, Democrats will be unable to approve it.

Rejecting an increase in the debt limit would send Democrats back to the drawing board.

"If Republicans vote in favor of a shutdown and default, the American people will see exactly who is responsible for throwing our country into crisis," Schumer said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returns to the Senate chamber for a vote after attending a bipartisan barbecue luncheon, at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 23, 2021.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., returns to the Senate chamber for a vote after attending a bipartisan barbecue luncheon, at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 23, 2021.

Democrats scramble to raise debt limit

When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen accompanied Pelosi and Schumer to a news conference Thursday, she didn't speak.

But her presence reminded lawmakers of her warning that the country will reach its limit on borrowing in mid-October, so the debt ceiling must be raised.

A report Tuesday from Moody’s Analytics warned of “cataclysmic” costs of failing to raise the debt ceiling. The report described a scenario “comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis” of 2008, with the American economy losing an estimated 6 million jobs and $15 trillion in household wealth and the unemployment rate soaring to nearly 9%.

Pelosi and Schumer have accused Republicans of being irresponsible for refusing to help raise the debt limit.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested Democrats raise it on their own, as part of the $3.5 trillion package, which could be considered under rules that avoid a filibuster.

"This is a totally Democratic government," McConnell said. "They have an obligation to raise the debt ceiling and they will do it."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress expected to vote on government funding, debt, infrastructure

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