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Democrats face heavy lift on Biden agenda as GOP stands by

Congress Debt Limit

FILE – In this July 11, 2021 file photo, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a press conference at a G20 Economy, Finance ministers and Central bank governors’ meeting in Venice, Italy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned Yellen he is not budging on his demand that Democrats go it alone on the federal debt limit, deepening the emerging standoff in Congress over how to boost the government’s borrowing authority. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress must fund the government in the next 10 days, or risk a federal shutdown.

Raise the nation’s borrowing limit , or default on its debt.

All this while lawmakers are laboring to shoulder President Joe Biden’s massive $3.5 trillion “build back better” agenda through the House and Senate.

The magnitude of the challenges ahead and the speed required to accomplish the job is like nothing Congress has faced in recent memory, situating Biden’s entire domestic agenda and the political fate of his Democratic party at a crucial moment.

The Republicans have made it clear they will not be helping with almost any of it. Instead, as the minority party in Congress hoping to regain control in the next election in 2022, Republicans plan to sit back, watching and waiting to see if Biden and his allies can succeed against the odds — or spectacularly fail.

As Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, summed up Biden’s agenda Sunday, “These are not frivolous matters.”

The next several weeks could be very long.

To start, the House is poised to vote on funding to keep the government running past Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year and a built-in deadline that in recent times has left lawmakers scrambling to avert a shutdown.

The package is expected to keep most spending at its current levels on a stopgap basis into fall, drawing bipartisan support. It will also likely include supplemental funds for the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters, as well as money to help defray the evacuations from Afghanistan.

Where questions emerge is if the must-pass government funding bill also includes language to allow more borrowing to cover the nation’s debt payments. The Treasury Department warned that it will soon run out of cash-on-hand, and have to rely on incoming receipts to pay its obligations, now at $28.4 trillion. That could force the Treasury Department to delay or miss payments, a devastating situation.

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