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Live updates: Senate passes bill to avert government shutdown, sending bill to House – USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON – The Senate approved legislation Thursday to extend funding for the federal government through Dec. 3, but the bill needs House approval to avert a shutdown at midnight.

The 65-35 vote sent the bill to the lower chamber, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said lawmakers would approve it and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“We hope this can be a strongly bipartisan bill because it keeps loyal services running, protects up to hundreds of thousands of workers from furloughs and protects the economy from shutdown,” Pelosi said. “A shutdown is not anything anyone wants.”

The bill also included $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.

Avoiding a shutdown resolved one of four thorny issues facing Congress in the next few weeks. The House was set to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill whose timing has divided the Democratic Caucus. Some Democrats argued the infrastructure bill should move in tandem with a $3.5 trillion package of Biden’s social welfare priorities, which is still under negotiation.

Congress must also raise the country’s borrowing authority by Oct. 18 or risk a default that economists warn would be an economic catastrophe.

The Senate vote on funding came after rejecting three Republican amendments dealing with the eligibility of Afghan refugees for aid, vaccine mandates and congressional pay. Democrats said each amendment would have sunk the urgent legislation in the House.

White House still pushing infrastructure vote Thursday despite divisions

Despite warnings from progressive House Democrats who remain uncommitted, the White House said it is still pushing for a vote in the House Thursday on Biden’s infrastructure bill.

“We’re working towards winning a vote tonight,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We have several hours left in the day.”

Liberal House Democrats have said they won’t vote for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which cleared the Senate with bipartisan support in August, unless there is progress on Biden’s more expansion $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. But moderate Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain uncommitted to that legislation.

“That’s what we’re working toward now,” Psaki said of a vote Thursday. “That’s what the president has been making phone calls about.”

– Joey Garrison

White House doesn’t commit to Manchin’s $1.5 trillion reconciliation ask

The White House would not say Thursday whether President Joe Biden would back a social spending bill that is trimmed to $1.5 trillion – a level that Sen. Joe Manchin said he told the president he could support.

“As we’ve said many times, we’re not going to outline private negotiations or private discussions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki characterized negotiations on Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan as ongoing, even as Democrats remain divided before a House vote scheduled for Thursday on Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

“We know that timelines helped make progress,” Psaki said. “We’ve seen that play out over the course of the last couple of days. We know that compromise is inevitable. We’ve also seen that play out over the last couple of days. And right now, we’re clearly in the thick of it.”

– Joey Garrison

Yellen: ‘Yes I would’ support eliminating debt ceiling

Congress has voted more than a dozen times in the last 20 years to increase the amount of money the federal government can borrow to cover its regular obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, though, thinks Congress should take another route: eliminating the so-called “debt ceiling” altogether.

Asked during testimony in a congressional committee on Thursday if she would support eliminating the cap on federal borrowing, Yellen said “yes I would.”

“I believe when Congress legislates expenditures and puts in place tax policy that determines taxes, those are the crucial decisions Congress is making,” she said. “If to finance those spending and tax decisions, it’s necessary to issue additional debt, I believe it’s very destructive to put the president and myself, the Treasury secretary, in a situation where we might not be able to pay the bills that result from those past decisions.”

– Rick Rouan

Senate approves funding to avert shutdown, bill goes to House

The Senate passed legislation Thursday that would extend funding for the federal government to Dec. 3 and narrowly avert a shutdown at midnight.

The Senate voted 65-35 to approve the bill, which includes $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.

The legislation now heads to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the chamber would approve it and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“We hope this can be a strongly bipartisan bill because it keeps loyal services running, protects up to hundreds of thousands of workers from furloughs and protects the economy from shutdown,” Pelosi said. “A shutdown is not anything anyone wants.”

– Bart Jansen

Sinema’s office says White House, Schumer know her ‘detailed concerns and priorities’ on budget bill

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s office said Thursday the president and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have known her budget priorities and concerns for weeks.

Sinema, a moderate Democrat and crucial vote in the divided Senate, said months ago she opposed the initial $3.5 trillion proposal by Senate Democrats.

Her objections to the price tag and other provisions, including universal pre-K and paid family leave, have amped up pressure for her to articulate publicly exactly what she wants to see in the budget reconciliation proposal, which is packed with progressive policies and can pass with a simple majority in the divided Senate if all Democrats support it.

“Senator Sinema said publicly more than two months ago, before Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that she would not support a bill costing $3.5 trillion,” a statement from her spokesman John LaBombard said. “In August, she shared detailed concerns and priorities, including dollar figures, directly with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and the White House.”

LaBombard said claims by House progressives that Sinema has not detailed her views to President Joe Biden and the majority leader are inaccurate.

— Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Arizona Republic

Sen. Joe Manchin: $1.5T is his limit on Biden social spending bill

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said Thursday that $1.5 trillion is the highest price tag he would support on President Joe Biden’s social spending bill.

That is much lower than the $3.5 trillion Biden proposed and what progressives want for a bill that includes a number of liberal priorities, such as subsidized caregiving, childcare, pre-kindergarten and community college.  

Manchin said he will not support a big social spending bill considering the money Congress has proposed for the bipartisan infrastructure bill – $550 billion in new spending – and the trillions for COVID-19 relief the government spent during the pandemic.

“I’ve never been a liberal in any way shape or form,” Manchin said.

Manchin confirmed that he signed an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in July setting the $1.5 trillion price tag as his spending limit. He said he did so as a precondition to voting in favor of a Senate budget resolution later in August.

Manchin is one of two Democratic senators unhappy with the current price tag. Without his support on a reconciliation bill, it cannot pass through the Senate, where it needs all 50 Democratic-voting senators in favor. Republicans oppose the bill. 

– Savannah Behrmann

Sen. Bernie Sanders: House should delay infrastructure bill vote

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the House should delay a Thursday vote on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

“If it’s pushed back two more weeks, it doesn’t matter. It will pass. But it must pass in tandem” with a $3.5 trillion budget bill packed with progressive policies, said Sanders, who helped craft the budget bill.

“You think the world will collapse?” the Senate Budget Committee chairman asked. “Who decided that today was a pivotal day.”

He also said he was “confident” an agreement could be reached with Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – though he conceded it wouldn’t happen on Thursday.

“We are talking about the most consequential piece of legislation for working people in the modern history of this country, it’s not a baseball game,” he said.

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

Sen. Mark Warner: House should vote on infrastructure bill to help Virginia governor race

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who helped pen the bipartisan infrastructure package, said House Democrats should vote Thursday on the bill.

Why? He points to a nail-biting race for governor of Virginia, where polls have shown a slight lead for former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe over Republican Glenn Youngkin. Virginia voters already are casting ballots in the race amid Democratic infighting in Washington over the infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion bill with a number of President Joe Biden’s priorities.

He said House Democrats should look at “a state that’s right now up with a key vote.”

“Virginians are out real-time voting,” Warner said. They have “enormous needs” on “infrastructure, and as somebody who has committed to doing reconciliation as well, let’s ensure that can help us in Virginia.”

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confident House will approve infrastructure

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the House would approve a bipartisan infrastructure bill despite opposition from progressive Democrats.

“I’m only envisioning taking it up and winning it,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.

A number of House Democratic progressives have threatened to vote against the infrastructure bill unless negotiations are complete on a $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.

Pelosi had hoped to have legislative language for compromises with the Senate on the $3.5 trillion package. But she said negotiations on infrastructure are moving in a positive direction because the talks on the larger package fit President Joe Biden’s vision.

“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Pelosi said. “We’re making progress.”

– Bart Jansen

Rep. Steny Hoyer not confident infrastructure bill will pass

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he isn’t confident the infrastructure bill scheduled for a vote Thursday will be approved.

The bill approved in the Senate is on the calendar, but lawmakers are still working behind the scenes on it, he said.

Asked if he was confident if it would pass, he replied: “Nope.”

– Bart Jansen

Nancy Pelosi: $3.5T budget bill ‘culmination of my service in Congress’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is thinking about legacy this week as her time with the gavel winds down and Congress considers a $3.5 trillion bill that contains much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“I just told the members of my leadership the reconciliation bill will be the culmination of my service in Congress,” Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference.

Pelosi was referring to the $3.5 trillion measure, which includes a number of liberal initiatives such as subsidized caregiving and childcare, pre-kindergarten and community college. Democrats are trying to pass the bill using a process called “reconciliation,” which would allow the Senate to approve the bill without Republican support.

Pelosi has said 2020 would be her last term as speaker.

– Rick Rouan

Sen. Dick Durbin: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin ‘had their chance’

Sen. Dick Durbin expressed frustration on Thursday with fellow Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have opposed a broader $3.5 trillion bill of social welfare initiatives because they say its price tag is too large.  

“They’ve had their chance. They’ve made their case,” said Durbin of Illinois. “They should close this deal. Too much is at stake with this to just be hanging on. We may be at a point where it’s difficult to close the deal.”

Both Manchin and Sinema have been meeting with White House officials in recent days about the bill, a wide-ranging package that includes much of President Joe Biden’s agenda. 

“After weeks of this, there comes a point where, if you want to leave your mark on this process, now’s the time to do it,” he said

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

Sen. Chuck Schumer confident funding bill gets approved to avert government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted the Senate and House would approve a short-term extension of government funding Thursday to avert a potential shutdown at midnight.

Senate votes will begin at 11:05 a.m. EST. Republicans will offer three amendments. If passed, the bill would then go to the House.

“I’m confident the House will approve this measure later this afternoon and send it to the president’s desk before funding runs out. This is a good outcome,” Schumer said. “With so many things to take care of here in Washington, the last thing Americans need is for the government to grind to a halt.”

– Bart Jansen

Mitch McConnell: Democrats have ‘accepted reality’ on government funding 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Democrats will be able to extend government funding because they are following a Republican road map, with aid for disasters and Afghan refugees, rather than including an increase in the debt limit.

“We are able to fund the government today because the majority accepted reality,” McConnell said.

But McConnell lamented the lack of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense program.

“It honestly baffles me that defensive aid to our ally Israel has become a thorny subject for the political left,” he said.

– Bart Jansen

Cotton, Marshall, Braun offer amendments to funding bill

Amendments to the funding bill the Senate will take up Thursday include:

  • Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., proposed to modify the eligibility of Afghan refugees for benefits in the United States.
  • Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, proposed to prohibit federal funding for COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
  • Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., proposed to block congressional pay after Oct. 1 in any year when the budget and spending bills aren’t approved.

– Bart Jansen

Congress also faces big decisions on infrastructure bill, debt limit, budget bill

Approval of the short-term spending bill is one of four thorny problems facing Congress in the next few weeks. The other challenges deal with the debt limit, infrastructure and a major package of social welfare programs.

Democrats had tried to approve the funding in combination with an increase in the country’s borrowing authority. But Senate Republicans blocked those moves, to force Democrats to raise the debt limit on their own.

Time is running out on the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress the country’s borrowing authority will be exhausted by Oct. 18.

– Bart Jansen

Pelosi: Infrastructure bill vote is still on for now, despite opposition from progressives 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday morning the bipartisan infrastructure vote was still on for later in the day.

“That is our plan,” Pelosi said. 

This comes just hours before the vote, where the speaker is facing big opposition from progressives within her caucus who want to delay passing the legislation until a separate $3.5 trillion budget spending bill is also voted on.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed confidence to reporters Wednesday night she had the votes to tank the legislation. 

Jayapal and other progressives are worried about their leverage with the larger package that includes many progressive domestic priorities. They do not believe House moderates will keep their word in voting for the larger budget bill at a later date if they’ve already passed the smaller bill.

Asked about the insurmountable opposition, Pelosi repeated what she said Wednesday night, that she is taking it “hour by hour.”

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

House set to vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on one of the largest public works bills in history at $1.2 trillion, which includes $550 billion in new spending.

But debate on the popular bill has been held up because of negotiations over a $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s social welfare priorities.

The conflict is between moderate House Democrats who want a victory on infrastructure while negotiations continue on the larger package, and progressive Democrats, who want both bills to move in tandem.

In the narrowly divided House, if Republicans unify in opposing both bills, the loss of four Democrats could kill either bill.

A group of nine moderates negotiated for a Monday vote on the bill, which slipped to Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., repeated Wednesday that she wants both bills to move together. But she also said the vote would occur as planned. At the end of the day, she said she was taking things “one hour at a time.”

“The plan is to bring the bill to the floor,” Pelosi said.

But Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said dozens of progressives would oppose the infrastructure bill on its own. She said contentious remarks Wednesday from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would drive more opposition to the bill.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been negotiating to reduce the $3.5 trillion price tag on the larger package. Manchin issued a statement Wednesday that it would be “fiscal insanity” to approve that much spending while government programs such as Social Security and Medicare aren’t fully funded.

“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.”

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