Live updates: Congress may take action Thursday to avoid government shutdown

WASHINGTON – Congress hasn't scheduled votes to extend funding the government as the clock ticks down on a shutdown, but leading lawmakers said Congress will likely take action Thursday before the midnight deadline.

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The second-ranking Republican in the Senate said votes likely won't be scheduled until Thursday. The head of the House Appropriations Committee also said that chamber is likely to vote Thursday.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., began Wednesday saying the Senate could work quickly to extend government funding to Dec. 3. After Senate approval, the bill would head to the House for a vote and to President Joe Biden for his signature.

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“We can approve this measure quickly and send it to the House so it can reach the president’s desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow,” Schumer said.

Government funding expires with the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. The House had approved a combined spending extension and increase in the debt limit. But Senate Republicans blocked that measure Monday, arguing that Democrats should raise the debt limit on their own.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., talks to an aide following a Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. © Kevin Dietsch, Getty Images Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., talks to an aide following a Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

More: Congress is weeks away from a debt crisis that could lead to default. Is it time to panic?

The funding bill would operate the government through Dec. 3, to give lawmakers time to approve routine spending measures for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The bill would also provide $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accompanied by other House Democrats and climate activists, pauses while speaking about their "Build Back Better on Climate" plan on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 28, 2021. © Andrew Harnik, AP House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accompanied by other House Democrats and climate activists, pauses while speaking about their "Build Back Better on Climate" plan on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 28, 2021.

Pelosi: Still planning on bringing bipartisan infrastructure vote to the floor and taking it ‘one hour at a time’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday after a White House meeting that it was still “the plan” to bring the bipartisan infrastructure vote to the floor Thursday.

Her remarks came even as progressives in her caucus expressed confidence that vote would fail. 

However, Pelosi conceded she was taking it “one hour at a time” when asked whether she was worried she had the votes. 

The Speaker has a large gap to make up ahead of tomorrow’s vote if more than a handful of progressives vote against the legislation. Though there are a few GOP members who have publicly said they would vote in favor, it//'s unlikely those would be enough to balance out defections from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

On Sunday, Pelosi told ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," "I'm never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes.”

-- Savannah Behrmann

House passes debt limit bill like one Senate already rejected

The House approved a bill Wednesday to suspend the country’s debt limit, but Senate Republicans have already blocked a similar proposal.

The House bill aims to lift the cap on how much the country can borrow until Dec. 16, 2022.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed a similar bill Tuesday. He needed unanimous consent to debate it and Republicans objected.

The impasse leaves the threat of a looming default unresolved.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the country will exhaust its borrowing authority by Oct. 18. A default could cause catastrophic economic harm, she warned.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested Democrats attach the increase in the debt limit to legislation carrying $3.5 trillion of President Joe Biden’s social welfare priorities. That legislation avoids the Senate filibuster, but would take longer to vote on.

-- Bart Jansen

Jayapal says she is ‘confident’ she has votes to tank bipartisan infrastructure vote in House tomorrow

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told reporters Weesday she was “confident” there will be enough progressive votes against the bipartisan infrastructure vote Thursday to stop the legislation.

Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been leading the charge against the bipartisan infrastructure vote without a vote first on the larger budget bill. Jayapal and other progressives are worried about their leverage with the larger package, which includes many progressive domestic priorities.

That larger budget bill is stuck in negotiations with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., who have both said the current $3.5 trillion price tag is too high.

After Manchin released a fiery statement against the budget bill Tuesday evening, calling it “fiscal insanity”,  Jayapal said if anything, it made her “more confident” in her strategy leading up to Thursday’s vote.

“I can tell you that his statement has just probably created at least a bunch more votes on the House floor against a bipartisan bill,” she said.

-- Savannah Behrmann

Chuck Grassley says Democrats shouldn't count on Republican help to raise debt ceiling

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday that Democrats should raise the nation's debt ceiling on their own since they are pushing new legislation to increase spending on health care and education that Republicans don't like.

On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have kept funding the federal government into early December and would have increased the federal debt ceiling — the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow to pay its bills.

Grassley, a Republican who recently announced he will run for reelection in 2022, said on call with reporters Wednesday that his party has consistently told Democrats where they stand and that "Monday's vote should not have been a surprise."

"We’ve said pretty plainly for months we will not abet the tax and spending spree, and that we’re going to vote against the raise of the debt ceiling," he said.

Read the rest here: Chuck Grassley says Democrats shouldn't count on Republican help to raise debt ceiling

-- Stephen Gruber-Miller

Manchin reaffirms opposition to Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda, giving no sign of progress

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., doubled down Wednesday on opposing Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan after meeting with the president the previous day, suggesting a compromise with moderate Democrats is still far off.

In a lengthy statement, Manchin continued to raise concerns with the cost of Biden’s social safety-net and climate package, calling it “the definition of fiscal insanity” to spend trillions more on new and expanded government programs.

“While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot – and will not - support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces,” Manchin said. "There is a better way and I believe we can find it if we are willing to continue to negotiate in good faith.”

Last month, Manchin called for a “strategic pause” on negotiations as Biden and Democrats rush to approve both the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill and a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill

Despite reaffirming his objection to the $3.5 trillion price tag, Manchin did not offer a topline figure he’s willing to support via reconciliation, nor did he say which areas he wants the package to address.

The reconciliation package backed by Biden and Democratic leadership includes funding for subsidized childcare, free community college, universal prekindergarten, Medicare expansion and climate initiatives.

-- Joey Garrison

Manchin: No text possible by Thursday on $3.5T

One of the two Democratic senators at the heart of negotiations over the size and scope of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion social welfare proposal said there is no way to complete legislative language before a House vote set for Thursday on an infrastructure bill.

“No, I don’t think that’s possible,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

He and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have each said the $3.5 trillion price tag is too high. They have been negotiating with the White House and other lawmakers for a possible compromise without naming a figure they could accept.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said both bills should move in tandem and that she would need to see legislative language for the $3.5 trillion package before voting on infrastructure.

She set an infrastructure vote for Thursday in negotiations with moderate Democrats. But progressive Democrats said they would vote against infrastructure if it moved alone.

Manchin said it would be a shame if the infrastructure bill failed. But he said he wasn’t working on a House timetable and that the two bills should have never been linked.

“That’s a shame,” Manchin said of a possible rejection of infrastructure. “That’s the best bill you got. It’s the most important thing we have.”

“I didn’t know I was on their timetable,” he added.

– Bart Jansen

White House working ‘around the clock’ to move bills forward

The White House said Wednesday it is working “around the clock” with lawmakers to help win congressional approval of a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a separate package of social safety net proposals.

“Our objective here is winning two votes, getting these two pieces of important legislation across the finish line, because we know the impact they will have on the American people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki did not rule out President Joe Biden heading to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders as the negotiations continue.

Psaki would not say whether two key Democrats – Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – have given the administration numbers they would be willing to accept as the cost of the social safety net proposals. Machin and Sinema have both said the current $3.5 trillion price tag is too high.

“We knew that would require negotiation and sometimes all sides giving a little bit,” Psaki said. “That’s what we have been discussing.”

– Michael Collins

Thune: Vote to fund government, avoid shutdown likely Thursday

The Senate began Wednesday with the possibility of voting on funding to avoid a government shutdown, a Republican leader said the vote will likely be Thursday while lawmakers negotiate possible amendments.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said some lawmakers want to offer amendments that could change the bill or add funding such as for Israel’s defensive Iron Dome program.

The bill would extend current government funding to Dec. 3, to give lawmakers more time to approve bills for the full fiscal year that begins Friday. Without the extension, government funding runs out Thursday at midnight.

Besides general funding, the bill would provide $28.6 billion for disaster aid and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.

Thune said some amendments deal with vetting Afghan refugees heading to the United States and issues dealing with identification.

In addition, Thune said some lawmakers want to attach funding for Iron Dome. The House approved a separate bill with $1 billion for the missile-defense program, but Thune said lawmakers could delay that bill.

“I’m hoping at least we can reach an agreement later today to vote tomorrow,” Thune said. “I think it will take a little while.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who heads the Appropriations Committee, said she expects the House vote to extend government funding on Thursday. "I think we're probably voting tomorrow," she said.

– Bart Jansen

Latest Democratic effort to raise debt limit moves forward 

The House Rules Committee approved Wednesday the rules for floor debate on a bill suspending the limit on the country’s ability to borrow through December 2022, but it could still be blocked in the Senate.

The bill is the latest attempt by Democratic leaders to avoid default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress on Tuesday the country is projected to exhaust its borrowing ability by Oct. 18.

But Senate Republicans blocked a bill Monday that aimed to extend federal funding and suspend the debt limit. Republicans also objected Tuesday when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sought unanimous support to vote on a debt limit bill, similar to what the Rules Committee advanced Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested Democrats should attach the debt limit provision to a proposed $3.5 trillion of social welfare programs, which avoids the filibuster.

But Democrats have resisted adding it to the spending package because that process would take weeks of floor debate.

“We must get this done and we must act fast,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., to avoid a total economic meltdown. “This is about paying the bills that we’ve already racked up.”

– Bart Jansen

Pelosi: infrastructure vote could be delayed

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday she could postpone a Thursday vote on infrastructure until compromise language is negotiated with the Senate and President Joe Biden on a $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs. But she also said she wants infrastructure to be approved Thursday.

“We’re doing it simultaneously,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said negotiations over the $3.5 trillion were unsettled because some senators are asking for a lower price tag.

“That completely sets off the timetable,” Pelosi said. “I can’t keep a commitment that the Senate has made it impossible to do. But what I’ve also said is we’re not proceeding with anything that doesn’t have agreement between the House and Senate. And that’s where we’re working.”

Pelosi repeated her commitment to a Thursday vote on infrastructure, but also said she has the power to postpone it.

“The speaker has that authority. But I want it to pass,” Pelosi said of infrastructure. “What we want to do is to pass it” Thursday.

The challenge is that in a narrowly divided House, the loss of four Democrats on any bill could lead to its rejection.

A group of moderate House Democrats negotiated for the vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending, separate from the $3.5 trillion package.

But Pelosi delayed a Monday vote until Thursday because of threatened opposition from progressive Democrats. Progressive lawmakers insisted that the two measures move in tandem, to avoid lawmakers supporting one measure without the other.

– Bart Jansen

Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz give green light to government funding

Two Republican senators who often object to Democratic strategies on the Senate floor each said Wednesday they wouldn’t object to a plan to extend government funding into early December, to avoid a shutdown Friday.

Government funding expires Thursday at midnight with the end of the fiscal year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., outlined a plan Wednesday to vote on a temporary extension of funding to early December, but he would need unanimous consent from senators to hold the vote.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, each said they wouldn’t object.

“We’re not going to object to condensing time” on the spending bill, Paul said

– Bart Jansen

Schumer: After funding government, lawmakers will turn to debt limit

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after Congress approves funding to keep the government operating into early December lawmakers would turn to the urgent need to increase the country’s ability to borrow.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the debt limit will be exhausted Oct. 18, saying that default would be catastrophic.

“It is imperative that Congress swiftly addresses the debt limit,” Yellen told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday. “If it does not, America would default for the first time in history. The full faith and credit of the United States would be impaired, and our country would likely face a financial crisis and economic recession.”

Schumer said economist Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of the White House Counsel of Economic Advisers, met with the Democratic Caucus on Wednesday. Schumer paraphrased Goolsbee as saying other governments have defaulted on their debts, but never due to stupidity, “in this case Republican stupidity.”

“Democrats are working to prevent such an outcome from happening now,” Schumer said. “Over the past week, our caucus has tried to find a workable solution to avoid default on our sovereign debt, but Republicans have stymied us at every opportunity.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has insisted that Democrats increase the debt limit on their own because they hadn’t consulted with Republicans on the proposed $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.

“The American people continue to hear about a steady stream of really bad ideas that Washington Democrats are packing into their reckless taxing and spending spree,” he said.

– Bart Jansen

Biden postpones trip for negotiations

Apart from the spending decision, Congress must still tackle the debt limit. The House is set to vote Thursday on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

But progressive House Democrats oppose approving the infrastructure bill unless a $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s social welfare priorities is also resolved. Senate Republicans have argued the only way for Democrats to raise the debt limit quickly is to attach it to the $3.5 trillion package, which could further complicate those talks.

Biden postponed a Wednesday trip to Chicago, where he planned to promote the importance of vaccinations against COVID-19, in order to continue negotiations about infrastructure and social programs.

But Biden will attend a memorial service Wednesday for the late Susan Bayh, the wife of former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., at the Washington National Cathedral.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks to reporters in a hallway at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. © Alex Wong, Getty Images Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks to reporters in a hallway at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Biden has met for days with groups of Democratic lawmakers representing different factions in the debate. He has held several meetings with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who have each said the $3.5 trillion price tag is too high.

“They had a constructive meeting, agreed that we are at a pivotal moment, need to continue to work to finalize the path forward,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said Tuesday.

More: History shows why moderate Democrats may be hesitant about Biden's agenda as 2022 elections loom

Manchin said afterward that no commitments were made, such as for an overall spending figure, but talks continue.

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Bipartisan infrastructure bill vote to test Democrats

The Thursday vote on infrastructure will test whether the sparring factions of Democrats will unite behind the bill approved in the Senate with a bipartisan majority.

A group of nine House moderates negotiated for a vote Monday on the measure, so it wouldn’t be tied to the more contentious $3.5 trillion package. But as progressive Democrats threatened to oppose it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moved the vote to Thursday, when the federal highway program expires.

If Republicans oppose the bill in the narrowly divided House, the loss of four Democrats could sink the measure.

A leader of the moderates, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., voiced confidence Tuesday that the vote would be held Thursday and that the bill would be approved.

“There is nothing partisan about fixing our roads and bridges and tunnels,” he said.

More: Nancy Pelosi's ability to mend Democratic differences is being put to the test with infrastructure vote

But the head of the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said dozens of Democrats would oppose infrastructure unless they also have the final language for the $3.5 trillion package that can win approval in the House and Senate.

“This agenda is not some fringe wish list: it is the President’s agenda, the Democratic agenda, and what we all promised voters when they delivered us the House, Senate and White House,” Jayapal said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live updates: Congress may take action Thursday to avoid government shutdown

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