Biden urges Democrats to overcome divisions over spending bills


US President Joe Biden on Friday urged his fellow Democrats in Congress to overcome divisions and back two massive spending bills that make up a large part of his national agenda.

Mr Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill ended a tumultuous week in which politicians narrowly avoided a government shutdown and postponed the House of Representatives vote on a $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill already adopted by the Senate.

New disagreements have emerged among Democrats over the size of a multibillion-dollar complementary bill that would fund health, education and climate measures.

The president admitted in a closed-door meeting that Democrats currently do not have enough votes to pass the two massive spending bills that have divided moderates and progressives, lawmakers said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We will do it, ”Biden told reporters after the meeting.

Members of the progressive wing of the party pledge to block the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill until they are confident the moderates will not derail the larger bill. social spending and climate change. Moderates say Bill is too expensive.

US Presidents rarely visit Capitol Hill, preferring to summon representatives to the White House for talks. Democrats said they hoped Mr Biden’s visit could help reignite momentum.

“I think the chairman might be the one person who can bridge both the lack of confidence and the lack of time,” Rep. Dean Phillips said ahead of the meeting.

Lawmakers said Mr Biden told them the social spending bill is expected to cost around $ 2 trillion – a significant drop from his original proposal of $ 3.5 trillion, and closer to $ 1. $ 500 billion that moderate Senator Joe Manchin said he would support.

Democratic leaders in the House did not appear to have a clear plan to resolve the impasse sooner.

“We are working to try to get to a place where everyone is comfortable,” House Democrat No.2 Steny Hoyer told reporters ahead of Mr Biden’s visit.

With a slim majority in the House, Mr Biden’s party cannot afford to waste too many votes on infrastructure legislation, which would double spending on roads and other infrastructure. The bill has already passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Democrats said they are also planning a vote to ensure transport funding, which expired on Thursday, is not disrupted while they continue to negotiate.

Progressives are angry that two moderate senators – Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – oppose the scale of Mr Biden’s plan to increase social spending and tackle climate change. The Senate is split 50-50 with Republicans, all of whom oppose the multibillion-dollar bill, so every Democratic vote is needed for passage with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker .

Ms Sinema has met with Mr Biden on several occasions to discuss the bill. She was at her home in Arizona on Friday but has kept in touch with the White House, a spokesperson said.

House Republicans are unlikely to help pass the infrastructure bill, eager to deny Mr Biden a political victory ahead of the 2022 midterm election, as history favors their chances of winning back the majority.

Congress has little time to focus on the fight for infrastructure due to another fast approaching deadline: the debt ceiling.

A historic US debt default could occur around Oct. 18, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen estimated if Congress does not give the government additional borrowing authority beyond the current legal limit of 28. , $ 4 trillion.

Republicans don’t want any part of the debt limit increase, saying it’s the Democrats’ problem since they control Congress and the White House. Democrats note that about $ 5,000 billion in the country’s debt is the result of tax and spending cuts adopted during Republican Donald Trump’s presidency.

The House on Wednesday night approved a bill suspending the debt ceiling until December 2022. The Senate could vote it “as early as next week,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, but Republicans should block it again like they did twice before. . – Reuters

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