Democrats scramble to avert government shutdown

Democrats in Congress scrambled to head off a government shutdown, one of several concurrent crises they face this week, with the Senate's Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer saying on Wednesday that they would vote on a stopgap bill soon to keep the government open before funding runs out at midnight on Thursday.

SCHUMER: "With so many critical issues to address, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown. This proposal will prevent one from happening, and I want to thank my colleagues who are working quickly to prepare this legislation."

The scramble follows a series of votes in which the Senate tried to both fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, but Republicans blocked their attempts twice, risking a potentially catastrophic federal government default next month.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney on Wednesday reiterated his party's refusal to cooperate on the debt ceiling, saying Democrats must act alone to raise it.

ROMNEY: "There's plenty of time for Leader Schumer to put forward a reconciliation provision that will be passed on a party line basis, the Democrats can pass it, they can raise the debt limit.

Meanwhile, Democrats are confronting party disunity in the House, where members of the progressive wing are vowing to vote against President Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill if the larger social spending bill - which could cost as much as $3.5 trillion - isn't nailed down first.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped back from her promise to move that far-reaching legislation alongside the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that already has cleared the Senate on a bipartisan vote.

With Democrats divided over his legislative agenda, Biden canceled a trip to Chicago on Wednesday so he could lead negotiations with Congress.

A source told Reuters a White House staffer was meeting on Wednesday at the Capitol with moderate Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has expressed concern over the size of Biden's spending plans and has the power to block them due to the Democrats' razor-thin majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris representing the potential tie-breaking vote.

Also standing in the way of party unity on Biden's agenda is moderate Democrat Joe Manchin, who said on Wednesday that it will take "a while" to work out details on social spending bill.

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