June 8, 2023, 12:39

Biden agenda at risk of being derailed by setbacks on Capitol Hill

Biden agenda at risk of being derailed by setbacks on Capitol Hill

As he nears 10 months in office, President Joe Biden is at a critical juncture with multiple aspects of his legislative agenda either stalled or in peril on Capitol Hill.

“We’re at this stalemate at the moment, and we’re going to have to get these two pieces of legislation passed,” Biden said Friday, referring to his infrastructure agenda.

With the prospect of a government shutdown now less than a week away, the president’s infrastructure agenda is also imperiled by a standoff within his own party, bipartisan negotiations over police reform have broken down, election and voting rights reform are stalled in the face of Republican opposition, and there is currently no clear way forward on immigration reform.

“The President won the most votes of any candidate in American history running on his agenda, and he and his team are fighting for the whole of it every day with the backing of strong majorities of the American people on each issue,” said Andew Bates, White House deputy press secretary, in a statement to ABC News.

He added that Biden is “undeterred by the obstruction of lobbyists for big-money interests or Republicans in Congress, and has always said that none of this would be easy.”

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILEPresident Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris, Washington, Aug. 10, 2021.


Still, Biden’s top legislative priority to rebuild and invest in the nation’s infrastructure is teetering in the balance.

A $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which already passed the Senate, is supposed to hit the House floor Monday. Progressive Democrats in the House, however, have said they won’t support the infrastructure bill unless a social spending package is also passed.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILEThe bipartisan group of Senate negotiators speak to reporters just after a vote to start work on a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, at the Capitol in Washington, July 28, 2021. From left are Rep. Kevin Cramer, Sen. Bill Cassidy, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Mark Warner, and Sen. Mitt Romney.

Democratic leaders said Thursday they had agreed on a “framework” for the money behind that larger, $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, although that figure may not be set. Moderate Democrats have taken issue with the price tag as well as aspects of the legislation, which addresses spending on a variety of social issues, including climate change and health care.

MORE: Schumer, Pelosi announce 'framework' to pay for $3.5T infrastructure bill

Disagreements in the party on the path forward led to multiple meetings between Biden and legislators at the White House on Wednesday.

Police reform

Bipartisan police reform negotiations broke down Wednesday without anything to show, nearly four months after the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd — a date that Biden had also once set as a never-materialized deadline to see plans for policing reform on his desk in the Oval Office.

Even with what Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said were “significant strides” in negotiations, Booker called talks off for good one day after Democrats had made a final offer on the issue.

Legislators from both parties working to create a reform framework ultimately couldn’t come to an agreement on certain points. Issues of qualified immunity and the involvement of police unions proved to be insurmountable policy differences.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said Wednesday that Democrats didn’t give Republicans additional time to consider outstanding points on the plan and instead “called and threw their hands up.”

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, FILESen. Cory Booker and Sen. Tim Scott talk as they wait for a Senate subway train on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 30, 2021.

Booker said in a statement Wednesday that he wants to seek out other ways to reform policing.

Voting rights

Despite majorities in both chambers of Congress, multiple attempts by Democrats to move forward with election and voting rights legislation have stalled in the face of Republican opposition.

In their latest effort, Senate Democrats last week introduced another version of voting rights legislation to push back against new restrictions in Republican-led states.

MORE: Senate Democrats introduce new voting rights bill

Introduced earlier this month, The Freedom to Vote Act is a modified version of the For The People Act, a massive election reform bill that failed in June after Senate Republicans unanimously voted against it. But the reintroduced legislation still includes a ban on partisan gerrymandering and measures on campaign finance and election security, among other broad-scale changes to elections in the U.S.

In March, Biden siged an executive order directing federal agencies to expand voter registration opportunities and participate in the electoral process.

J. Scott Applewhite/APSen. Joe Manchin arrives to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the Capitol, Sept. 21, 2021.

Biden pushed hard for voting rights — a key agenda item after 2020 — at a June speech in Philadelphia when he was advocating the For The People Act.

“We’re going to face another test in 2022: A new wave of unprecedented voter suppression, and raw and sustained election subversion. We have to prepare now,” Biden told the crowd at the National Constitution Center.

Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said last week he was working to rally GOP support for the Freedom to Vote Act, since the bill will likely need 60 votes to advance. But it is unlikely to garner enough bipartisan support to pass.

Immigration reform

As the Biden administration now faces strong backlash over the mass expulsion of Haitian migrants at the southern border and images of aggressive tactics used by Border Patrol agents on horseback, the president’s legislative agenda on immigration reform faces no clear way forward.

MORE: Democrats lash out at Biden administration over handling of Haitian migrants

Democrats’ latest attempt to address immigration reform as part of the reconciliation process — which allows legislation to pass with a simple majority — was blocked by the Senate parliamentarian on Sunday.

Felix Marquez/APMigrants cross the Rio Grande towards Del Rio, Texas, from Mexico, Sept. 23, 2021.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that Democrats aimed to find a workaround to the parliamentarian’s ruling.

Government shutdown

Now, a government shutdown could become reality as soon as next week.

Democrats have paired extending government funding, which expires at the end of September, with raising the country’s debt limit.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILESenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attends a news conference following Senate Republican policy luncheons in Washington, Sept. 14, 2021.

Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said they won’t raise the country’s debt ceiling because they oppose spending Democrats have proposed .

Raising the debt ceiling pays for previous expenditures, not future spending, and Republicans have helped raise it in the past.

The White House Office of Management and Budget sent guidance to federal government agencies Thursday in case of a government shutdown.

“We are doing everything we can to prevent a government shutdown,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing Thursday. “We’re right now in the midst of trying to get a historic package that’s going to address a lot of issues the American people care about across the finish line.”

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