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US government shutdown looming as Congress works toward spending deal

TALLAHASSEE – Time is running out for Congress, as lawmakers try to keep a government shutdown from happening again.

The federal government shutdown in 2018-2019 was 35 days -- the longest in history.

This time, much of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda would be at stake. There are disagreements within the Democratic Party about dual infrastructure votes.

The White House describes talks over twin bills as a “precarious” point. Moderates and progressives can’t agree on the scope of about $4 trillion in spending.

That price tag would add to another bill of more than $1 trillion.

“We’ve had this challenge in the past, but this time it looks particularly troublesome,” said News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney.

Mullaney said the two bills present an issue -- and really, there are two different issues. The spending plan and the debt ceiling.

Mullaney agrees, the president’s priorities are on the table and in jeopardy.

“This is a big and fundamental part of his agenda. Clearly, infrastructure package is fundamental. And that’s a great example of one that has bipartisan support, both in the House and in the Senate,” Mullaney said. “But the other piece of it the $3.5 trillion package is very large, very important to the president. Politically -- very much a big part of his agenda, and it’s a high stakes proposal.”

Democrats are trying to save the president’s agenda, but progressives aren’t cooperating.

They’re upset with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to vote Thursday on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill before getting a deal done on a $3.5 trillion “social safety net” package.

Moderates are pushing back, too.

“All we need to do is pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, then sit down and start negotiating in good faith,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“It’s the Democrats that want to take on all this debt to pay for all of this massive spending, and it’s the Democrats are gonna have to raise the debt ceiling,” said Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Republicans voted earlier this week to block a bill that would raise the debt limit. Raising the debt limit would avoid defaulting on the country’s debt.

House Democrats are not introducing a new bill to suspend the debt ceiling.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.