GOP blocks bill to keep government going; new try ahead

Republican Senators blocked a bill to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing, threatening a shutdown.

By

National News

September 28, 2021 - 9:18 AM

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators blocked a bill to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown pledged to try again — at the same time pressing ahead on President Joe Biden’s big plans to reshape government.

The efforts are not necessarily linked, but the fiscal yearend deadline to fund the government past Thursday is bumping up against the Democrats’ desire to make progress on Biden’s expansive $3.5 trillion federal overhaul.

It’s all making for a tumultuous moment for Biden and his party, with consequences certain to shape his presidency and the lawmakers’ own political futures.

“You know me, I’m a born optimist,” Biden told reporters Monday, as he rolled up his sleeve for a COVID-19 booster shot. “We’re gonna get it done.”

Monday’s 50-48 vote against taking up the bill fell well short of the 60 needed to proceed over a GOP filibuster. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switched his vote to “no,” a procedural step to allow him to bring the measure back for consideration.

With days to go, Democrats said they will try again before Thursday’s deadline to pass a bill funding government operations past the Sept. 30 fiscal year end, stripping out the debate over the debt limit for another day, closer to a separate October deadline.

Meanwhile, the real action is unfolding behind the scenes over the $3.5 trillion measure, with Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress seeking a once-in-a-generation reworking of the nation’s balance sheets.

From free pre-kindergarten and child care subsidies for families with small children to dental care and hearing aids for seniors with Medicare, there’s a lot in the president’s proposal — all to be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

With Republicans solidly opposed, Democrats are rushing to trim the total and win holdouts within their own party.

“We just have to make difficult choices,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats during an evening caucus meeting, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private session.

As the overall price tag comes down, Pelosi said the president is “working on that piece,” referring to talks underway with the Senate. Pelosi said the House Democrats would not move ahead on a bill until it is acceptable to their colleagues in the Senate. “We’re not there yet,” she said.

Exiting the caucus meeting, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the Way & Means Committee, said as momentum builds toward Thursday, he was expecting a new total amount: “Let’s pop the number.”

Building on a separate $1 trillion bipartisan public works package that’s already cleared the Senate and is heading for a House vote Thursday, Biden is seeking major spending for health care, education and efforts to tackle climate change. The total price tag, he contends, is actually “zero” — covered by the expected increase in tax revenue.

He is personally calling fellow Democrats in Congress an effort to resolve differences and bring his sweeping domestic policy vision forward.

Ticking off the weighty list of goals along with meeting the other deadlines, Biden said, “If we do that, the country’s going to be in great shape.”

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