The next 24 hours will be a clear sign whether Democrats are on the verge of pushing through a one-time social safety net expansion or approaching a complete collapse of Joe Biden’s ambitious national agenda.
The stakes are higher than ever as Democrats head for a decisive vote on a $ 1 billion public works measure, with almost no margin for error and little time to break a deadlock that threatens to put in jeopardy its passage – and possibly the entire president’s agenda.
Assurances of progress have offered little comfort to nervous Democrats on Capitol Hill, where a string of legislative and fiscal deadlines loom.
“We are obviously at a precarious and important point in these discussions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday as Biden spent the day locked in negotiations with Democratic leaders and lawmakers.
Returning from an Oval Office meeting with Biden on Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that she was ready to move forward with a vote on Thursday.
“That’s the plan,” she said, adding that they were taking it “one hour at a time.” The warning reflected the fluid nature of the negotiations, hours after leaving open the possibility that it could delay a vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday as the president struggled to secure a deal with two dissenters centrists over its broader social policy package, considered a staple by progressives in the party.
At the center of the uncertainty are centrist Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both have indicated that the price of Biden’s diary is too high, but to the frustration of their colleagues, have not publicly described what they would be comfortable spending. Compromise is the only way forward for Democrats, who need every vote in the Senate and almost every vote in the House.
“While I hope that common ground can be found that translates into another historic investment in our country, I cannot – and will not support – trillions of spending or an all-or-one approach. nothing that ignores the brutal fiscal reality facing our country. “Manchin said in a statement Wednesday.
His stance makes it unlikely that Democrats will reach a deal by Thursday, when Pelosi wants the House to vote on the Senate infrastructure bill that would spend billions of dollars to upgrade roads, bridges and the country’s broadband.
This leaves Democratic leaders at a standstill, in part on their own initiative. They first promised progressives that they would push infrastructure and social policy bills forward in tandem. At the same time, Pelosi told centrists she would hold a vote on the infrastructure bill this week. But with Manchin and Sinema objecting to the cost of the social spending proposal, Pelosi said she was forced to change her strategy. Now she’s asking her caucus to move forward with the infrastructure bill while Biden and the senators seek a compromise.
The social policy bill has the potential to be transformative for millions of American families. While the details are fluid and the package is almost certainly shrunk, the bill would extend the child tax credit, establish universal preschool education, create a system of federally paid family and medical leave, more than a range of programs to combat climate change and the country’s transition to renewable energies. The plan would be paid for by trillions of dollars in tax increases on Americans and wealthier businesses.
The decision to dissociate groundbreaking legislation from Thursday’s vote on the infrastructure bill infuriated progressives, who say they will sink the infrastructure vote if there is no agreement on the infrastructure bill. larger package. In a sign of deep mistrust within the party, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from Washington, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she wanted the Senate to approve the package first before supporting the smaller bill.
To complicate matters further, Sinema says she wants to see the infrastructure bill pass without delay, even if her objections to the bill risk delaying – or derailing entirely – the bill’s passage.
Pelosi said it would take an agreement with Biden on the “legislative language” of his social policy bill before Thursday’s vote. But Manchin quickly dispelled that notion, saying this was not the timeline in which he was operating.
“It is not possible to obtain a framework for reconciliation” by Thursday, he told reporters.
The House has moved forward on one front. In a largely partisan vote Wednesday night, the House approved a law that would suspend the debt ceiling until December 16. The bill advances to a Senate vote, where the way forward to overcome the Republican obstruction remains unclear.
In addition, the Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would prevent a government shutdown at midnight Thursday, by funding federal agencies until December 3.
The scam has pushed the country dangerously close to financial calamity, and yet both sides appear to be rushing into it. Republicans want to force Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own by using the reconciliation process to bypass filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the position hypocritical, saying Republicans have a responsibility to help raise the debt ceiling, as Democrats have done three times under the Trump administration.
“As the default gets closer and closer to becoming a reality, our fellow Republicans will be forced to ask how long they are going to continue playing political games while our country’s economic stability is threatened,” said Schumer.
Meanwhile, the White House and Democratic leaders were racing against time to strike a deal. With little room for error, Biden continued his personal contacts with reluctant Democrats as some members publicly doubled down in TV interviews and on Twitter. Even if a consensus is reached, the arduous task of trimming and finalizing the bills remains.
When asked if Democrats can be successful, Psaki told reporters to stay tuned.
“It’s like an episode of a TV show,” she said, of the high-stakes negotiations. But what a show depends on what happens next.
“Maybe the West Wing if something good happens,” she said. “Maybe Veep if not.”