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Democratic disagreements imperil Biden agenda as shutdown looms


Democratic disagreements imperil Biden agenda as shutdown looms
The US Capitol building where the Houses of Congress are located in Washington, DC. - Reuters

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Washington, D.C. – United States president Joe Biden’s agenda was at risk of being derailed by divisions among his own Democrats, as moderates voiced anger on Wednesday at the idea of delaying a U.S. $1 trillion infrastructure bill ahead of a critical vote to avert a government shutdown.

The White House said talks over twin bills that would revitalise the nation’s roads and airports and fund social programmes and climate change measures, were at a “precarious” point as moderates and progressives disagreed over the scope of some U.S. $4 trillion in spending.

Congress, which Democrats control by a razor-thin margin, is due to vote on a bipartisan resolution to fund federal operations through early December before funding expires at midnight on Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scheduled votes on the measure beginning on Thursday morning, leaving plenty of time for the House of Representatives to act.

The House was also expected to vote on Thursday on a U.S. $1 trillion infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate with bipartisan support, although some party leaders warned that vote could be delayed again – which would dismay moderates.

Representative Stephanie Murphy, a moderate Democrat who backs the infrastructure bill, warned against defeat or delay of the legislation.

“If the vote were to fail tomorrow or be delayed, there would be a significant breach of trust that would slow the momentum in moving forward in delivering the Biden agenda,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

With House progressives warning they will vote against the infrastructure bill until a deal is reached on the separate multitrillion-dollar plan focussed on social spending and climate, the vote was not guaranteed.

“The only way the vote happens (Thursday) is if we have the votes to pass the bill,” Representative Dan Kildee, House Democrats’ chief deputy whip, told reporters.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer went to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to meet Biden, a former senator himself, who cancelled a trip to Chicago to lead negotiations with Congress.