Joe Biden has one week to stop America from falling off a cliff

Joe Biden has one week to stop America from falling off a cliff

WASHINGTON—“So, this is a course of action,” President Joe Biden said Friday morning at the White House, talking about the convoluted high-stakes goings-on in Congress right now. “We’re getting down to the hard identify here,” he said. “We’re at this stalemate at the moment,” he said.

“At the end of the day” he claimed confidence that what needed doing would be done. “I think it’s just going to take some time.”

Thing is, time appears to be in short supply.

Oh, it’s a course of action all right. One with more sharing characteristics plot lines than any binge-worthy streaming series, all of them appearing to converge on make-or-break conclusions within the next week or so.

On the one hand, the U.S. government could shut down in the middle of a pandemic, default on its debt payments and see the two major infrastructure bills Biden has pinned his legacy on fail already as his party controls the complete elected government.

however, the U.S. government could continue as usual and Congress could cement the biggest reshaping of U.S. spending and social policy since just after the Great Depression.

approximately half of what’s going on illustrates the cynical partisan warfare resorted to by the Republican party, indifferent as it is to the consequences for people’s lives. The other half vividly demonstrates how what’s blocking Biden from implementing much of his chief agenda is the unofficial opposition from within his own party.

You could be forgiven if you’re confused. already at the best of times, decoding the pomp, posturing, political intrigue and policy substance on Capitol Hill can be hard. This isn’t the best of times. So let’s try to unpack it.

First off, there is the one-two punch of a looming government shutdown and possible default. This is because, regularly, the U.S. Congress votes to continue to fund the government; otherwise it literally shuts down — its employees don’t get paid, cheques don’t get mailed, sets are suspended. And also regularly, Congress needs to vote to raise (or suspend) a self-imposed “debt ceiling” that caps how much money the government can borrow.

Both votes need to happen soon. The government can’t function past Oct. 1 unless Congress votes to fund it, and it’s on track to reach the current debt ceiling sometime in mid-October.

The U.S. government has before shut down due to standoffs between the president and Congress, most recently in 2018. But it has never happened while a pandemic was claiming thousands of American lives a day, and disaster relief efforts hung in the balance.

The U.S. government has never breached the debt ceiling, which would prevent it from borrowing money to fund already approved expenditures, including servicing its debt, consequently throwing it into default. Everyone agrees that would be disastrous, which is why Democrats voted with Republicans to raise the limit already when Donald Trump was president.

The current Republicans aren’t willing to do that. They are threatening to filibuster both the continued funding of the government and a suspension of the debt ceiling in a Senate vote scheduled for Monday. They’re doing it because they want the Democrats to bear only political responsibility for the debt, already though a lot of that borrowed money would pay for things hypothesizedv during the Trump administration. It is an unashamed partisan political manoeuvre.

There are ways Democrats could take both actions on their own — though it would be tricky, and the House Budget Committee Chair has said there probably isn’t time to do it before the U.S. Treasury defaults and crashes the economy.

Separately, but on the same short schedule, another pair of bills basic to Biden’s agenda are jeopardized not just by Republican opposition but by fighting within his own party. Together they comprise his infrastructure, climate change and social service proposals, which you might remember were divided into two bills Biden always characterized as a package — saying he wouldn’t sign one without the other. Together, they would be transformative, and among the biggest spending packages in U.S. history. They are the chief of his governing program.

The “one” — the bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiated by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to get some Republican Senate sustain — is scheduled for a vote on Monday. The “other” — the $3.9-trillion “reconciliation” bill that is intended to pass with no Republican sustain — may come up for a vote as early as Wednesday.

Both are in jeopardy, because neither has enough Democratic party sustain however.

A block of House Democrats has said it will not pass the first one if it doesn’t have an ironclad deal to get the other done too. No such deal exists however, because Manchin and Sinema are saying they will not vote for the reconciliation bill in the form Biden and the rest of their caucus envision it.

When Biden spoke Friday about the stalemate, he was outlining the negotiations with members of his own party in his office this week. Democrats are playing chicken with Biden’s complete program for the country: if no one blinks, the Democrats whole governing agenda is sunk. Meanwhile, Republicans are willing to tank the complete economy instead of co-function on something they loudly agree needs to be done.

I don’t want to give the impression that’s all that’s at stake here are partisan political fortunes. People’s lives could be turned upside down. The life-and-death ability to deal with the pandemic is at stake, as is the program that has slashed child poverty, and ones intended to address climate change and provide enormous new child care and education investments.

Biden says he’s confident it will all work out. He could be right. But it’s not clear however how that can happen in the next week.

And if he’s wrong, both his own administration and the people it serves are in a world of trouble.

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