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WASHINGTON – The Senate votes Monday on the first of several big pieces of legislation that Congress is expected to tackle this week, including legislation that would fund the federal government to avoid a shutdown, pour billions into the nation's roads and highways and a massive bill that contains the bulk of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
But the path to success for each measure is uncertain, leaving a week of unpredictable political maneuvering ahead against the looming threat of a government shutdown Friday and catastrophic default on its debt in October.
The Senate is scheduled to vote at 5:30 p.m. EST on whether to begin debate on extending federal government funding to Dec. 3 and to suspend the debt limit until December 2022.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said it would be irresponsible not to keep the government operating and paying its debts.
Republicans could block the debate because while they support extending federal funding, they contend Democrats should have to raise the debt limit on their own. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said Republicans won’t help contribute to reckless taxing and spending by Democrats.
If Republicans block the bill Monday, Democrats would have to find another way to avoid a government shutdown that would begin Friday.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the country's borrowing ability will run out in mid-October, which could lead to a worldwide economic collapse unless lawmakers raise the debt limit.
Here are other votes expected this week:
House to open debate on infrastructure bill
The House is scheduled to open debate Monday on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, setting up a high-stakes showdown over how much spending Congress will approve this year.
The Senate has already approved the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending. So if the House approves it, the bill would go to Biden for his signature.
A group of moderate House Democrats had negotiated for a vote by Monday, arguing that they should claim victory on infrastructure before the more contentious package of $3.5 trillion of social programs is resolved.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the infrastructure vote is slipping to Thursday, when the federal highway program expires.
One of the leaders of the moderate faction, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., insisted Friday that the infrastructure bill will be approved.
But Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said dozens of members of the Progressive Caucus will oppose the bill on its own and could reject it unless the $3.5 trillion is approved, too.
Pelosi pitches Biden's priorities
Pelosi scheduled a Democratic Caucus meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. EST for lawmakers to discuss their priorities. Democrats may still be meeting when they learn whether the Senate has gridlocked over government funding and the debt limit.
Besides the infrastructure bill, general government funding and the debt limit, Pelosi wants to approve the $3.5 trillion package of Biden’s priorities such as paid family and medical leave, universal pre-kindergarten and community college, and an expansion of Medicare. Biden’s slogan for approving those priorities is called “Build Back Better.”
But Republicans are unified in opposition to the package, leaving Democrats to approve it on their own. Several Democrats in each chamber have questioned the taxing and spending in the package, threatening its approval.
House and Senate leaders have been conferring with Biden on what should be included in the final package, so lawmakers can vote once on legislation that can win approval in both chambers.
The House Budget Committee assembled an initial version of the package Saturday from 13 committees. The House Rules Committee, which sets rules for how legislation is debated, could begin tweaking the legislation Tuesday for eventual floor debate.
“We have to find our common ground, respectful of each other's views,” Pelosi said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “Overwhelmingly, the entirety of our caucus, except for a few whose judgment I respect, support the vision of Joe Biden. And we will pass – make progress on it this week.”