WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A sharply divided U.S. Senate failed on Monday to advance a measure to suspend the federal debt ceiling and avoid a partial government shutdown, as Republican lawmakers denied the bill the votes necessary to move forward.
Republicans have said they want Democrats to lift the debt limit on their own, saying they do not support their spending plans. Democrats point out that much of the nation’s new debt was incurred during Trump’s administration.
INFRASTRUCTURE TIMING UNCLEAR
Democrats are also at odds over two pillars of Biden’s domestic agenda – a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion social spending package.
The rift risks derailing Biden’s presidency and the party’s hopes of keeping its congressional majorities in next year’s midterm elections.
Biden spent the weekend negotiating with lawmakers over the phone, according to administration officials. The White House and Democrats in Congress were considering whether to narrow benefits for electric vehicles and community-college tuition in the social spending bill, sources said.
Biden told reporters that Democrats might not reach an agreement this week, an assessment backed by the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin.
“I don’t think anybody has a rosy scenario,” Durbin told reporters.
The infrastructure bill, which moderates favor, would fund road, bridge, airport, school and other projects. It passed the Senate last month with considerable Republican support.
But progressive Democrats have threatened to oppose the measure unless moderates in both the House of Representatives and Senate agree to the larger package, which Democrats intend to pass without Republican votes.
Moderate Democrats say the social spending bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag is too high, and Democrats including Pelosi have acknowledged it will need to be scaled back to pass.
Biden’s efforts to expand healthcare and education, reduce child poverty, and fight climate change hang in the balance.
House Democrats emerged from a Monday night meeting confident they would bridge their differences.
“I think we’re going to get there,” said Steny Hoyer, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat.
Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Jarrett Renshaw and Susan Heavey; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney
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