Fall will test leaders’ ability to keep Congress on track


WASHINGTON (AP) – Year-end stacks of crucial laws and the team spirit that goes with them are normal behavior for Congress. This fall, lawmakers are launching into vivid battles over the risks they pose to both parties and their leaders.

While few doubt Congress will extend the government’s borrowing power again when it expires in December, no one seems certain how it will. Democrats do not yet have the votes to enact President Joe Biden’s top priorities. And Republicans fear Democrats will weaken the filibuster rule that allows the Senate minority party to derail legislation.

Miscalculate and there could be a calamitous federal default, a collapse of Biden’s national agenda, and, for good measure, a damaging government shutdown. Stir up lawmakers whose nerves are already on edge and looking to fix issues for next year’s midterm elections, and it’s a recipe for showdowns that could hurt every party if leaders don’t. Warning.

Here are the bets on each side:

DEBT LIMIT

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Blinked last week. And then he said he wouldn’t blink anymore.

McConnell has said since the summer that Republicans will not provide the majority of votes Democrats need to extend the federal debt limit. But Thursday night, 11 Republicans, including McConnell, joined Democrats in narrowly overcoming a procedural hurdle so the Senate could then approve new borrowing of $ 480 billion.

The vote pushed back until December a first-ever federal default that could disrupt the global economy, delay government checks to Social Security recipients and others, and spark voter anger against lawmakers.

But the partisan feud will resume in two months.

Republicans want Democrats themselves to raise the debt ceiling to underline their argument that Biden’s multibillion-dollar social and environmental program is unaffordable. Democrats want Republicans to make their mark on increasing borrowing limit, arguing that the $ 28 trillion national debt matches unpaid bills already incurred, including $ 7 trillion under the former president Donald Trump.

By granting a two-month reprieve from fighting, McConnell angered Republicans who wanted a tougher stance against Democrats, including Trump, still an intimidating force within the GOP. Even McConnell’s usual ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., called it “complete surrender.”

Demonstrating the political sensitivities at stake, eight of the 11 Republicans who helped Democrats approve the debt ceiling increase on Thursday are retiring or not seeking re-election until 2024 or later.

On Friday night, McConnell said he “will no longer provide such assistance,” citing “serious concerns” over the Democrats’ huge national bill and “hysteria” from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer , DN.Y. More on that later.

In December, something must give. But it’s unclear how that will happen, and the stakes will be high for leaders to ensure that a partisan look down doesn’t get out of hand.

Oh – by December 3, federal agencies will close unless Congress approves legislation that funds them.

BIDEN’S AGENDA

Progressive Democrats and centrists are arguing over the final size and content of Biden’s 10-year, $ 3.5 trillion package for the social safety net, climate change, and tax initiatives. The more their battles rage, the more likely the party is to let the struggles themselves define the effort, distracting attention from the broadly popular programs they hope to include.

Due to Senate moderates like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, Biden conceded that the final price will likely be much smaller., approximately $ 2 trillion. Money for priorities like the environment, health care and education will have to decrease accordingly.

Faced with unanimous Republican opposition and paper-thin majorities in Congress, Democrats will need near-unanimity to be successful. The political consequences for Democrats would be shattering if Biden’s priority bill, along with an accompanying trillion-dollar infrastructure package, collapsed with his party holding the White House and Congress.

“I hope to God that is not the case,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt said on Friday. He predicted that both bills would pass, but admitted “a horrible possibility” of failure.

FEAR OF FLIBUSTING

Democrats have become increasingly open to the idea of ​​weakening Obstructions, Senate procedures that have allowed Republicans to wreak legislative havoc by demanding 60 votes in the House 50-50 to pass most bills. Manchin and Sinema said they oppose the change, hampering that option.

GOP leaders fear that if a deadlock on the debt limit approaches a default, Schumer may be able to persuade Manchin and Sinema to support the removal of obstructions for debt limit increases. And that could later lead to additional exceptions for voting rights or other Democratic priorities.

These fears are the “most obvious challenge” for Republicans in calculating the stubbornness of being deadlocked on the debt limit, said Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D.

AURE MOOD

Congress is an angry place these days. Four years of Trump’s belligerent presidency, the deadly Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill by his supporters and the high stakes for Democrats pushing Biden’s agendas have taken their toll.

Frayed relationships are everywhere.

Manchin said on Wednesday that he did not want the massive Democrats’ National Programs Bill, of which Sanders is a leading proponent, to make the United States “a rights society.”

Sanders criticized Manchin’s desire to curb the climate change and healthcare provisions in the bill. “Doesn’t Senator Manchin believe that our children and grandchildren have the right to live in a healthy and livable country and world? asked Sanders.

The two represent opposite ends of the political spectrum of Democrats. Still, it was a very unusual public release of internal differences, and at a crucial time.

In a letter to Biden, McConnell unleashed a remarkably bitter personal attack on Schumer. McConnell said Schumer’s “childish behavior” alienated Republicans who had just helped push through the extension of the short-term debt limit, adding, “It poisoned the well again.”

“There is a lot of stress being felt, there is a lot at stake here in terms of the causes that many of us have fought for a lifetime,” said Senate Democratic Leader No.2 Richard Durbin. from Illinois. He added: “So the sooner we do it, the better.”


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