It is a race against time for the American parliamentarians responsible for adopting a budget before midnight Thursday if they want to avoid the sudden drying up of the federal government’s finances, while Congress must simultaneously settle several hot topics. for Joe Biden. The stakes are so high that the Democratic president preferred to cancel a trip scheduled for Wednesday, September 29 in Chicago to stay in Washington and conduct negotiations with key elected officials of his group.
The former senator, who praises his talents as a conciliator, hopes to extract his two titanic investment projects, in infrastructure and social reforms, from the impasse into which they have plunged fratricidal struggles between democrats. At the same time, another crucial mission falls to parliamentarians: to avoid the collapse of public finances in two stages.
On the one hand, they must approve in the coming hours a mini-budget valid until December to avoid the paralysis of the federal government, because the current finance law expires Thursday evening at midnight. On the other hand, they must raise the debt capacity of the United States by October 18 if they want to avoid the first sovereign default of the world’s greatest economic power.
“Time is running out, the danger is real”
The first front, approving a temporary budget, should be the easiest to settle because there is consensus. But in an explosive atmosphere in Congress where partisan divisions are alive, everything is complicated. After a day of waiting, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the vote would finally take place Thursday morning, on a text that would extend the current budget until December 3. Republican senators are expected to vote in sufficient numbers for this mini-budget to be approved. He must then receive the green light from the House of Representatives, controlled by the Democrats, before he can be promulgated by Joe Biden.
All before midnight, because if this new finance law is not validated on time, all federal service funds will suddenly be cut on Friday (which is nicknamed “shutdown”). Ministries but also national parks, certain museums and a multitude of organizations would be affected, forcing hundreds of thousands of employees on technical unemployment. An instability that no elected official wants, at a time when many other legislative fronts are agitating Washington. In the first place, with the specter of a default by the United States.
Because even if a « shutdown » is ultimately avoided, there will remain the problem of the debt ceiling. If it is not suspended or relieved, the United States will find itself strapped for cash on October 18, warned Finance Minister Janet Yellen. “Time is running out, the danger is real”, hammered Chuck Schumer.
$ 5,000 billion reforms
Republicans are refusing to give the green light to a suspension of the debt limit, which they say would amount to writing a blank check to Joe Biden. They urge Democrats to approve it alone, through a laborious parliamentary maneuver. But Chuck Schumer insists that this way would be too much “Risky”, and that the debt has so far been mostly accumulated under previous presidents.
The elected representatives of the House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, approved for their part Wednesday a text providing for the suspension of the debt ceiling until December 2022. But without any Republican support, this project was stillborn in the Senate. At this stage, great uncertainty remains as to the outcome of the Congress.
On the front of the Biden plans, several dozen elected members of the Democratic left wing are threatening to derail a final vote on infrastructure scheduled for Thursday in the House. They are indignant at not having received firm guarantees from the centrists on the progress of the plan of colossal social reforms. The greatest doubt therefore weighs on these plans at the heart of Joe Biden’s mandate, currently amounting to nearly 5,000 billion dollars.
The president received Democratic leaders in the Oval Office on Wednesday and pledged the White House’s efforts to advance its plans “Will continue tomorrow”. In the meantime, all gathered in the evening around a baseball field for a friendly match between parliamentarians.