The president of the United States, Joe Biden, faces these days a moment of truth at the side of which the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan could seem little more than an anecdote. With the enemy at home – the division in his party between moderates and progressives – the president had to suspend a planned trip to Chicago to fight with his most rebellious congressmen and try, against the clock, to square the circle. At midnight the deadline to extend the federal government budget expires and thus avoid a closure of the Administration, while the shadow of a moratorium looms over the country; at the same time, the processing of the two major infrastructure plans, the DNA of his mandate, stagnates in Congress for the same reason: the irreconcilable difference between the different sensitivities of the Democratic Party. Factors that weaken Biden, now and in the face of the November 2022 mid-term elections, an increasingly corporeal appointment for Republicans and Democrats.
To the setbacks experienced by Biden in recent weeks – the Afghanistan fiasco, the Republican rejection of some of his candidates to head federal agencies; contrary votes in Congress, such as the one that stopped the police reform, this week adds a perfect storm: the conjunction of pressing financial obligations and the legislative blockade. Democrats are maneuvering piecemeal to prevent the shutdown of the federal government, which would imply the practical paralysis of the Administration, untying that attempt from the measures to raise the debt ceiling, the other peremptory obligation of the US Treasury.
The fate of the physical infrastructure plan, which foresees an investment of a trillion dollars and has bipartisan support, also hangs in the balance, although it is scheduled to be voted on today. The increasingly bitter fight between progressives and moderate democrats has entangled its parliamentary process, since the former want to carry out the aforementioned plan and another social and environmental plan worth 3.5 billion dollars at the same time; the moderates refuse and reject the tax increase to the highest incomes to finance the second. To this day, there seems to be no meeting point between the two positions, which has forced Biden to grapple with critics. With rebels like Senator Joe Manchin, a real headache for the White House behind whose rejection of the president’s ambitious policy against climate change, included in the second plan, would be his good relations with the oil industry. Behind-the-scenes prominence of the powerful lobbies It explains many delays and most of the obstacles on the legislative agenda, such as the influence of the powerful pharmaceutical industry on some Democratic congressmen against the lowering of the price of drugs that Biden proposes and that the majority of the population supports.
Regarding the extension of the budget, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, is scheduled to vote throughout this Thursday. With the due support of some Republican senators, the extension would extend the current budget until December 3. A patch, but also a relief for the White House, especially when the threat of a default if Congress does not increase or at least suspend the debt ceiling before next October 18. The Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, already warned this week: the US could face “a financial crisis and an economic recession” if the Treasury runs out of funds and therefore cannot pay its debts.
The threat of closure of the Administration is nothing new, but the possible default del Tesoro would make history, when it was produced for the first time. “Time is limited, the danger is real,” Chuck Schumer, Democratic leader of the Senate, stressed this week. Again, as in an endless loop, the ball passes from one roof to another. Republicans refuse to suspend the debt issuance limit, considering that it would mean a blank check for the Biden government (it is not, theoretically, since the financing would only reach the debts incurred). That is why they have transferred the final decision to the Democrats, which multiplies the inconveniences: in a Senate with a tie at 50 seats, the Democrats must not only overcome their division, but also resort to a complex mechanism, called “budget reconciliation” (majority simple rather than the usual two-thirds majority) to pass it.
Again, as in a hellish circle, the division between centrist and progressive democrats constitutes the obstacle, even above the Republican opposition. The House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday to suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022, but without Republican support in the Senate, the initiative was born dead. If the aforementioned reconciliation procedure does not forge, the opposition votes in the Senate are imperative to reach two-thirds. “The fact that Republicans are so irresponsible is not surprising,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, Schumer and Biden himself have multiplied their contacts in the last hours, to try to save the furniture of the Democratic Administration, financially and politically speaking. That is, save the furniture also from the presidency of Joe Biden.
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