GOP blocks bill to keep government going; new try ahead

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber for a test vote on a government spending bill at the Capitol in Washington on Monday.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators blocked a bill Monday night to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown are likely to try again — at the same time pressing ahead on President 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.

Success would mean a landmark accomplishment, if Democrats can helm Biden’s big bill to passage. Failure — or a highly unlikely government shutdown and debt crisis — could derail careers.

“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.”

In Monday night’s vote, senators voted 50-48 against taking up the bill, well short of the 60 “yes” votes needed to proceed. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switched his “yes” to “no” at the end in order to allow Democrats to reconsider the bill later.

With days to go, Democrats are likely to try again before Thursday’s deadline to pass a bill funding government operations past the Sept. 30 fiscal yearend, 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.

Building on a separate $1 trillion bipartisan public works package that’s already cleared the Senate and is heading for a House vote, 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 in an effort to resolve differences and bring his sweeping domestic policy vision forward.

Ticking off the weighty list of goals to accomplish, Biden said: “If we do that, the country’s going to be in great shape.”

But Republicans say it’s real spending that can’t be afforded, and a reflection of the Democrats’ drive to insert government into people’s lives.

And so far, the bill is also too big for key Democrats whose votes are needed in the face of the GOP opposition. Two Democratic holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, have said they won’t support a bill of that size. Manchin has previously proposed spending of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.

With all Republicans opposed, Democratic leaders can’t spare a single vote in the 50-50 Senate, relying on Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie to pass the eventual package.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Judd Grossman

The federal government is broke.

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.
.
The News&Guide welcomes comments from our paid subscribers. Tell us what you think. Thanks for engaging in the conversation!

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.