Washington: The US Congress has passed legislation to avert a government shutdown, but another test of President Joe Biden’s agenda lay ahead as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Some progressive Democrats vowed to vote against the bill to invest in the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, angry that Democrats have not yet reached agreement on a multi-trillion-dollar companion bill with funding for social services and to address climate change.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, centre, is trying to convince her own party to vote for the infrastructure bill.Credit:AP
The House approved the measure to fund the government through to December 3 in a bipartisan 254-175 vote, hours after it passed the Senate 65-35. It will now go to Biden for signing before funding runs out at midnight, Washington time.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi confirmed the House will also vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday (Friday AEST), despite fresh infighting between moderate and progressive Democrats.
When reporters asked No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer if he was confident that bill would pass in a Thursday vote, he had a one-word reply: “Nope.”
Failure to pass the infrastructure measure would be a stinging setback for Biden. It has already passed the Senate with Republican and Democratic support. But it could fall victim to an impasse between Democratic moderates and progressives over a larger bill that would bolster social services and tackle climate change.
Members on the party’s left flank have said they will not vote for the infrastructure bill unless they feel certain their priorities will be reflected in the social-spending bill.
The Capitol building in Washington.Credit:AP
Senator Joe Manchin, a key Democratic moderate with the power to block legislation in the Senate, said on Thursday that bill should cost no more than $US1.5 trillion ($2.7 trillion) – far lower than the $US3.5 trillion price tag floated by Biden.
Pelosi, who had earlier promised moderates a vote on the smaller $US1 trillion infrastructure bill this week, said at a news conference that the party was in a “good place”. But she declined to predict whether the measure would pass on Thursday.
With razor-thin majorities in Congress, Democrats cannot afford to lose many votes if they want to pass their agenda. And they are unlikely to win much support from House Republicans eager to take back the majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
The stopgap spending bill approved in the Senate would also provide aid for communities hard hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. Money to help Afghan refugees is included as well.
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