Politics

Biden Suffers Humiliating Blow As Infighting Derails Key Vote

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President Biden suffered an embarrassing setback for his multitrillion dollar spending plans on Thursday night as Democrats abandoned a vote in Congress on his infrastructure bill amid a looming party civil war.

A day of private negotiations and public mudslinging ended shortly before 11pm as Biden’s congressional lieutenants called off the House vote.

It leaves Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending bill and $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan at the mercy of warring progressives and moderates.

After meeting with White House officials, centrist Democrat Joe Manchin sounded the death knell.

‘I don’t see a deal tonight,’ he said. ‘I really don’t.’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had planned to bring a vote on the bipartisan bill to rebuild roads and bridges on Thursday evening.

But progressives, who find themselves with growing leverage, said they would vote against it unless there was progress on the bigger package that would raise taxes on America’s wealthiest to pay for social care, free education and other of Biden’s domestic priorities.

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, a leader of House progressives, told reporters: ‘Nothing has changed with our caucus members. We don’t have the votes to pass infrastructure.’

The result was Biden’s own party digging in to halt almost his entire domestic policy agenda.

The standoff cast a long shadow over the White House where the lights burned long into the night.

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Officials insisted that progress had been made.

‘A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever,’ said Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

‘But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing.’

It came despite a moment of victory earlier in the day as Republicans and Democrats agreed to keep funding the federal government through December 3.

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But instead of inviting reporters into the Oval Office to watch the president sign a funding bill to keep the government running, the White House simply sent out a picture of the signing and a statement.

‘There’s so much more to do,’ said Biden.

‘But the passage of this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to pass longer-term funding to keep our government running and delivering for the American people.’

Without a deal beating Thursday’s midnight shutdown deadline, hundreds of thousands of government workers would have been furloughed, dealing a deep blow to an economy still rebuilding after COVID-19 closures.

The House approved the measure with a bipartisan 254-175 vote, hours after it passed the Senate.

The administration faces another crucial vote next week on suspending the debt ceiling, which is needed to ensure the government can borrow enough money to pay its bills through October.

And two hold-out senators are delaying not just a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill but a bipartisan plan to spend $1 trillion on renewing the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

White House officials met with Manchin, along with Senator Kyrsten Sinema and socialist Bernie Sanders in the evening to thrash out a deal.

The centrists want a smaller price tag and are wary of steep tax hikes to fund the package – but progressives, who initially wanted a $6 trillion deal, say they have already given up enough.

Sanders blasted the idea that an agreement could be reached with the clock ticking down.

‘It is an absurd way to do business, to be negotiating a multi-trillion-dollar bill a few minutes before a major vote with virtually nobody knowing what’s going on,’ he told CNN.

‘That’s unacceptable. And I think what has got to happen is that tonight, the bipartisan infrastructure bill must be defeated.’

Even after the delay was announced, Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a key moderate, said talks would continue later into the night.

‘This is just one long legislative day — we literally aren’t adjourning,’ he tweeted.

‘Negotiations are still ongoing, and we’re continuing to work.’

Earlier Manchin told reporters he could only support a $1.5 trillion package.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush blasted him for now demanding that Democrats trim the bill after backing an earlier version of the massive package.

‘We need to be serious and right now when we are seeing from the conservative side and the small cadre of people is a fundamentally unserious pattern of negotiation,’ Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News.

She ridiculed what she saw as a change in stance.

‘Which senator are we negotiating with?” she asked.

‘Will it be June Manchin? Is it September Manchin? Is it August Manchin? … Will it be a different senator that pops up?’

House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal also condemned moderates for standing in the way of the bigger spending package.

‘We won’t let massive corporations, billionaires, and a few conservative Democrats stand in the way of delivering transformational progress for millions of working people,’ she said in a tweet.

‘Stick to the plan. Pass both bills, together.’

The huge bill will be funded with tax hikes that mainly target the rich.

They included raising the corporate tax rate from 21 per cent to 26 percent for the biggest companies, and the top income tax rate for Americans making over $400,000 would increase from 37 per cent to 39.6 percent. The top capital gains rate would also go from 20 percent to 25 percent.

With the two wings of the Democratic Party apparently at war, the White House tried to play down the idea that Biden was not in control of his own party.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said different opinions were a norma… (Read more)

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