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Biden faces legislative logjam before Christmas

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill returning to work from the Thanksgiving break face a make-or-break vote plot that will provide another crucial test of Joe Biden’s political power in the run-up to Christmas.

After the president signed 1.2 billion dollars The bipartisan infrastructure bill into law earlier this month, Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the Democratic Senate, announced he would pass the second key piece of Biden’s legislative program – the clause. invest $1.75 billion in America’s social safety net – on December 25, a significant challenge to the long list of issues that still divide his party.

At the same time, the clock is ticking for Democrats to make some sort of deal with Republicans to prevent a federal government shutdown, avoid default, and continue funding the US military – all before Last year.

Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, likened the impending “drama” to a “small drama,” but insisted Democrats could pass their checklist in the coming days. next week.

“Talk a little less and act more. . . that’s what we need next month,” Klobuchar told ABC News on Sunday.

The first major deadline will come this Friday, when lawmakers in both houses of Congress will need to agree to continue funding the government or risk a shutdown that would put hundreds of thousands of federal employees on the job. state lost jobs.

Democrats said they intend to come up with a “continued solution,” or gap measure, as soon as Tuesday that will fund the government in a few weeks’ time. by the end of this month or possibly next year.

Another significant funding crisis for lawmakers is the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill to fund the US military that is often the subject of political controversy because lawmakers often try to make unrelated edits about it.

Schumer on Monday night sought to push for the law, but his efforts were blocked by Republicans who said more debate was needed.

“There is nothing less than the safety of the American people at stake,” said Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate minority leader. “This is more important than the political timetable for partisan wish lists.”

The budget wars are unfolding in the shadow of an even bigger economic threat: the fact that the US government is on collision course to breach debt limit right next month.

“The debt ceiling is an X-factor that could shake up the entire December agenda,” said Ben Koltun, research director at Beacon Policy Advisors.

Janet Yellen, US Secretary of the Treasury, has pledged Congress to act quickly to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a financial disaster, warning The government risks facing “insufficient remaining resources” after December 15.

Lawmakers have for months been engaged in a game of over-borrowing chicken, with Republicans insisting that Democrats “go it alone” to raise the debt ceiling using a legislative process complex called mediation and the president ‘s party says they need the support of the GOP to proceed .

Independent analysts have suggested that the government may have a few more weeks, or even a month, beyond the government’s expectations before it risks default.

But the potential risk is already in place for investors, with recent US short-term debt auctions showing some market participants looking to limit their exposure to mature Treasury bills. around the time congressional negotiations may be entering a period of crisis.

Even if a debt ceiling deal could be reached, that would still make Biden’s Build Back Better bill, a $1.75 billion package to invest in early childhood education, public health care and climate policy, to be completed in the coming weeks.

Schumer on Monday reiterated his intention to pass the bill, clean house earlier this month, before Christmas, even as Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, and others sounded the alarm.

All 50 Democratic senators – including Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – will need to sign the bill if it becomes law.

On Monday, Manchin declined to commit to a Christmas deadline, telling reporters when asked if the bill should be considered in January: “We’ll wait and see what we have.” .

However, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, issued an upbeat note, telling reporters that senior White House officials had been “in close contact” with lawmakers.

“I can assure you we’re moving very quickly to get this done and we look forward to taking action in the coming weeks,” she added.

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