In the next four days, what will happen in the United States Congress or Capitol Hill will determine the success or failure of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda. This is because there are four different legislative programs that will clash in a policy-making process that is quite stressful.
Congress must pass a budget resolution for the new fiscal year before Friday to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government, and must increase the Treasury Department’s limit on borrowing money to avert a catastrophic default that could happen by at least mid-October.
At the same time, the warring Democrats themselves are debating two additional bills that the president considers important on the agenda.
“I don’t know if it will all be resolved this week,” said William A. Galston, a senior researcher in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“But there is no doubt about the fact that the next one or two – or a maximum of three weeks – will be the success or failure of the Biden administration’s legislative agenda.”
The first of two bills Democrats are contesting is the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the Senate has already approved with bipartisan support.
The second is a much larger $3.5 trillion budget bill on tax cuts and social spending that will enable the Democratic Party’s priorities to be implemented, including its efforts to tackle climate change, expand access to healthcare, tackle inequality, and more.
The problem is that the progressives of the party promise to block the passage of the infrastructure bill unless the social budget bill is passed first, and the moderates refuse if the infrastructure package is passed first and the cost of the social budget bill is cut.
Jason Grumet, president of the Center for Bipartisan Policy, a Washington-based research organization, said the Democratic leadership in the House is in a position similar to that of the Republican Party a decade ago.
At that time, the rise of the far-right Tea Party movement left Republican leaders facing ideological groups within their party who were willing to thwart the party’s broader goals in order to achieve their own narrower goals.
“Historically, when the speaker of the House and the president of the Democratic Party said, ‘We’re going to do this now,’ the party would agree,” said Grumet. Now, he said, “there are open questions, in the next few days, as to whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden, the fact that he was able to maintain unity in the very diverse Democratic Party.”
And that only covers the DPR. In order for the social budget bill to pass the Senate, Democrats must unite their 50 members, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Cinema of Arizona, both of whom have seriously cast doubt on the proposal.
Senate Republicans on Monday night complicated the process by using a legislative tool – the filibuster – to thwart a House-passed bill that would fund the government through December and suspend limiting the debt ceiling on Treasury loans until December 2022.
Their goal is to force Democrats to use a process known as “budget reconciliation,” which is immune to filibusters, to raise the debt ceiling using only Democratic votes.
Members of Congress on both sides fear having to raise the debt ceiling for fear of being criticized for reckless budgeting.
Still, Democrats want Republicans to participate in the debt ceiling vote, as doing so would help cover the costs of the budget bill and tax cuts passed when Republicans were in power.
In addition, Democrats have planned to use budget reconciliation to pass a $3.5 trillion social budget bill. But adding an urgent increase in the debt ceiling greatly complicates the bill and puts pressure on the Democratic Party’s time. (my/rs)