Biden suffers blow as trillion-dollar vote delayed

Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Democrats progressive wing in Congress, said her members would vote against President Biden's infrastructure plan unless the larger welfare and climate change bill is passed first

US President Joe Biden has suffered a setback after Congress delayed a vote on a $1tn (£750bn) infrastructure plan.

Part of his Democratic Party refuses to move forward with the plan until Congress signs off on a separate $3.5tn plan on welfare and climate change.

That plan is at the heart of the party's agenda for government and passions are high among its liberal (progressive) and centrist wings.

Centrists want to scale the legislation back radically.

Congress did pass a temporary measure to keep the federal government funded until early December.

Federal museums, national parks and safety programmes would have had to close without the funding, which also includes hurricane relief and help for Afghan refugees.

The $1tn public works bill, which would apply to routine transportation, broadband, water systems and other projects, enjoys wide support but liberal Democrats are linking it to their more ambitious welfare and climate change bill.

That bill would raise taxes on corporations and the rich, investing the revenue in a broad array of social programmes, including early childhood education, universal preschool, government-funded two-year college education, paid family and medical leave, an expansion of government health insurance and environmental spending.

President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been trying to reconcile the liberals with the centrists.

Reflecting the centrist position, Senator Joe Manchin said he was ready to meet the president less than halfway, at $1.5tn. He described the proposed figure of $3.5tn as "fiscal insanity".

Sen Bernie Sanders, a leading liberal, said the issue was "not a baseball game" but "the most significant piece of legislation in 70 years".

A fellow liberal, Representative Ilhan Omar, said: "Trying to kill your party's agenda is insanity. Not trying to make sure the president we all worked so hard to elect, his agenda pass, is insanity."

The House will be back in session on Friday when efforts to push through the bills will resume.

"We are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Biden's party has the thinnest of majorities in both the House and Senate, and is eager to push through its signature policies before next year's congressional elections, when the Republicans attempt to regain control.


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