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Nancy Pelosi seemed determined to go ahead with a deciding vote on Joe Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in the US House of Representatives on Thursday, even as progressive lawmakers threatened to sink the flagship piece of the president’s legislative agenda.
“We are proceeding in a very positive way to raise the bill. . . in a way that he can win, ”Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning after several days of crucial talks with the White House and members of Congress.
Biden has bet his presidency on two bills: the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $ 3.5 trillion investment in America’s social safety net that Republicans strongly oppose and should pass in the Senate. with only Democratic votes through a maneuver known as reconciliation.
On Thursday, Manchin revealed that he had told Democratic leaders that he could not guarantee his support for a reconciliation bill worth more than $ 1.5 trillion, considerably lower than Biden expected.
Sinema also said Thursday that she remained concerned about the size of the spending bill and had shared her “priorities, concerns and ideas” with the White House and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader. She said she was still involved in discussions to “find common ground” about the legislation.
Progressive Democrats in the House have told Pelosi that they will not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure package without clarity on the second-largest spending bill.
After meeting with the president on Thursday afternoon, the chair of the House of Representatives progressive committee, Pramila Jayapal, told reporters that the progressives were “in the same place,” adding: “We will not be able to vote for him. infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill has been passed. “
Pelosi, a longtime legislator with a track record of coming out of tough negotiations, has repeatedly said that she will not vote until she is sure she will win. Yet despite the president’s optimistic tone Thursday, many on Capitol Hill remained skeptical that she could get the infrastructure package over the line this week.
When asked by reporters if he was confident the infrastructure bill would pass Thursday, Steny Hoyer, Pelosi’s number two, said “No.”
Progressives wept badly Wednesday night after Manchin issued a lengthy statement saying he could not support $ 3.5 trillion in additional spending. “At some point, all of us, regardless of party, must ask ourselves the simple question: how much is enough?” asked the senator.
Manchin has proven to be a thorn in the side of the White House and many members of his own party in a Senate split 50% between Democrats and Republicans. Kamala Harris, the vice president, can cast a tiebreaker vote, but any Democratic senator can torpedo a bill given the strict arithmetic.
However, Pelosi insisted Thursday that a reconciliation bill would eventually become law, calling the proposed broad social investment a “culmination of my service in Congress.”
The mad rush to save Biden’s domestic agenda comes as lawmakers scramble to avoid a government shutdown and face the specter of possible default on US debt if lawmakers fail to raise the federal borrowing cap.
On Thursday, the Senate passed a “continuing resolution” to fund the government for another two months and avoid a shutdown before Friday’s 12:01 am deadline. The House is expected to adopt the measure later Thursday.
But the debt ceiling problem remains unsolved, Republicans refuse to sign an increase in the borrowing limit, and Democrats insist they don’t have enough time to pass the measure without opposition support.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned earlier this week that the government is at risk of running out of money by October 18, an outcome she warned would be “catastrophic” and precipitate a financial crisis. On Thursday, Yellen told lawmakers that he would support the total elimination of the debt ceiling.
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