WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled Congress is poised for a chaotic week.
On Monday, the Senate is bracing for a vote — which Republicans have already vowed to block — to avert a government shutdown and a debt default. The government would shut down Friday if there’s no resolution.
The House is expected to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill that progressive Democrats have threatened to block to maximize their leverage over a separate multitrillion-dollar package. The vote had originally been scheduled for Monday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that she was confident that the infrastructure bill would be passed this week but appeared to be giving herself extra time to lock up support. She said this week would be “a week of opportunity” in a letter to House Democrats late Sunday.
Pressed about the matter earlier in the day on ABC’s “This Week,” Pelosi said, “I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have votes.”
The twin showdowns carry high stakes for the government’s ability to keep functioning and for the prospects of the two pillars of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
“Everything’s drama. We play drama with people’s lives. We can’t shut the government down. We’re going to shut the government down in the middle of a pandemic? It’s the most irresponsible action that anybody could take,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. “And it’s the same on the debt limit. It’s total political rhetoric, drama. And it is real people’s lives, it’s our position in the world, and it’s bulls—.”
Pelosi appears to be trying to head off opposition among the left wing of her party.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which she leads, will vote down the infrastructure bill, which a bipartisan group of senators negotiated this year, unless the larger social safety net bill has passed the Senate.
Or at least until “every single detail is worked out, they’re signed in blood, public commitment,” she said.
She said there is a lack of “trust” between progressives and centrist Democrats about the desire to pass a sweeping package to expand the safety net and rewrite the social contract.
Pelosi sought to entice progressives to vote for the infrastructure bill by floating a vote on the larger bill. But Jayapal said that wouldn’t be enough unless the Senate also agreed.
In the Senate, Republicans have threatened to block the government funding and debt limit bill, saying Democrats should raise the debt limit on their own without bipartisan help. Democrats reject that as ahistorical.
The legislation needs 60 votes to break a filibuster, meaning at least 10 Republicans would have to break ranks. So far, only one GOP senator — John Kennedy of Louisiana — has said he is likely to vote for it, citing disaster aid funding Louisiana needs.