Congressional Democrats are staring at a possible government shutdown this week even as they try to bridge warring intraparty factions that threaten passage of both a bipartisan infrastructure and the bigger Build Back Better spending package.
In a Dear Colleague letter on Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House must pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as the Build Back Better measure and that Congress also must enact a continuing resolution to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year starts on Friday.
"The next few days will be a time of intensity," she wrote.
The infrastructure bill contains $550 billion in new spending for roads, waterways, rural broadband and other needs, including Western water projects.
Pelosi told ABC News on Sunday that the bill vote would be this week but she wouldn't commit on the timing. "You cannot choose the date. You have to go when you have the votes in a reasonable time. And we will. And I do believe that we will do."
But progressives continue to threaten to sink that bill until they are assured that there is a deal on the Build Back Better legislation that can pass the Senate.
The House Budget Committee voted 20-17 to approve a $3.5 trillion version of the bill on Saturday, but two key Senate Democrats have been demanding deep cuts in the legislation. So, the Budget Committee vote was largely a formality with Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., conceding ahead of time that the text would have to be replaced with a compromise bill. One committee Democrat, Scott Peters of California, voted against the bill because of concerns about a health care provision.
The committee-approved bill isn't quite complete either; it lacks $28 billion in conservation funding and farm debt relief that are to be eventually included.
There has been no sign of a House-Senate agreement on the bill's top line, much less the deals of the spending, which includes funding for climate-smart agriculture, clean energy, child care, higher education and health care.
Pelosi told ABC that it was "self-evident" that the final measure would be smaller than $3.5 trillion.
As for the infrastructure measure, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif, told Agri-Pulse he was hopeful it would draw enough GOP votes to pass. "It’s going to take … significant coordination to pass that bill,” he said.
Another moderate, the Democratic chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, expressed confidence that the infrastructure bill would pass at some point this week.
"Every single Democrat in the House voted to bring it to the floor for a vote this week. We're going to do it. We're going to have the votes. It will come up tomorrow, and we're going to vote this week, early this week," Gottheimer told CNN on Sunday.
But Republican leaders have been pressuring GOP members to oppose the measure, which passed the Senate 69-30. And the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., was insistent Friday that the bill would fail. “I don’t bluff. I don’t grandstand," she said.
The end of the 2021 fiscal year on Thursday is the most urgent issue facing Congress. The House last week passed a stopgap spending bill to fund the government at fiscal 2021 levels into December, but the measure was dead on arrival in the Senate because Republicans object to the inclusion of an increase in the federal debt limit.
The continuing resolution includes $10 billion in funding for agricultural losses in 2020 and 2021. Under the measure, producers could be eligible for aid if they are in an area that was classified as in severe (D2) drought for at least eight consecutive weeks. Losses due to prevented planting, fires, floods, freezes and high winds also would be covered.
Republicans and Democrats have continued to argue over whether the debt limit increase is needed to accommodate past spending increases (the Democratic position) or whether it is intended to make room for the Build Back Better bill (the Republican claim).
Democrats "are in the midst of an absolutely unprecedented, very damaging spending spree on a scale that we have never seen. And they want us to come along and authorize the borrowing to help pay for it, when we are totally opposed to what they're doing," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told CNN on Sunday.
Pelosi told ABC that the GOP position was "totally irresponsible." "They know full well what the consequences are (of a government default). They preached it when the former president was in office, and we always cooperated," she said.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Sept. 27
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Sept. 28
Wednesday, Sept. 29
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on 2021 wildfires, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Small Business subcommittee hearing, “Sustainable Forestry’s Role in Climate Solutions,” 2360 Rayburn.
Thursday, Sept. 30
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
Friday, Oct. 1
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com