Senate Passes Bill To Avoid Shutdown, Keep Government Funded

UPDATED, with House vote: The Senate and the House passed a new funding package on Thursday, avoiding a partial shutdown of the government at midnight and resolving, at least for now, one of a number of Democrats’ legislative priorities.

The bill passed in the Senate 65-35 and in the House 254-175. It funds the government through Dec. 3. It also includes disaster aid and money to help Afghan refugees. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation later on Thursday.

But it’s just one of a number of legislative items that have created a high stakes situation on Capitol Hill for Democrats and Joe Biden’s White House.

Congress has yet to raise the government debt limit, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warning that the U.S. will not be able to pay its debts if action isn’t taken by Oct. 18. Republicans are refusing to vote to raise the limit, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Democrats to take the responsibility to raising it through a process called reconciliation, which would require a simply majority to pass rather than the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders have been trying to move forward on Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she still plans to bring a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package to the floor on Thursday, but progressive members have balked unless they can get assurances over the fate of a $3.5 trillion social spending and climate change package, referred to as the “reconciliation” bill. A key vote in the Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), told reporters in a large press scrum outside the Capitol that the figure he offered was $1.5 trillion, although he would not directly say whether that was his final number. Progressives quickly rejected the figure.

The $3.5 trillion package would extend a child tax credit, create universal pre-K, expand Medicare and provide two years of tuition free community college, as well as make huge outlays to counter climate change.

But Manchin and another Senate moderate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), are resistant to the size of the package, which cannot pass without their votes. Democrats have control of the 50-50 Senate, and no Republicans are expected to vote for it.

“We only have 50 votes,” Manchin told reporters, in a moment covered live on news channels. “Take whatever we aren’t able to come to an agreement with today, and take that on the campaign trail next year and I am sure they will get many more liberal progressive Democrats with what they want.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that discussions are ongoing. “We’re in the middle of it right now. It’s messy, this sausage making.” She said that the White House was working on getting some members to come up in their number and others to come down.

Pelosi tried to project an optimistic scenario for getting the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, telling reporters that “we’re on a path” to win it on Thursday. But reporters who pressed House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that he replied “nope” when asked he was confident that it would pass if brought to the floor today.

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