Congress avoids government shutdown but infrastructure battle looms

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 1:30 p.m. ET, October 1, 2021
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2:41 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Democratic lawmaker says Manchin's price tag is "unconscionable" and "absurd"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Democratic Rep. Cori Bush, a progressive, harshly criticized moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's proposed spending limit today, suggesting he opposed Democrats' larger ambition because he would not personally benefit from it.

"This is absolutely absurd," said Bush, responding to Manchin's stated limit on a the price tag for Democrats' plans to expand the social safety net.

Bush went on to attack Manchin, suggesting he opposed Democrats $3.5 trillion proposal because he himself would not benefit from the government spending. 

"The fact that one person who is not affected by what would come out of this Build Back Better Act, he's not affected by it personally, but the people in our communities all across this country are," she said. "They deserve a voice."

"It is unconscionable that he can stand puffed-up and hold the line on something that hurts people now and to say that 'I'll toss you some crumbs right now and then hopefully you can say you ate,' it's not good enough, and I won't stand for it," she added.

2:24 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Senate passes short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown. Bill now goes to House. 

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

The Senate just voted to pass a short-term funding bill to keep the government open past midnight tonight.

The stopgap funding bill will avert a government shutdown and keep the government funded through early December.

The bill next heads to the House, which is also expected to approve the measure.

How we got here: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday evening that an agreement had been reached, paving the way for a Thursday vote in the chamber on a continuing resolution, which keeps the government funded at current levels for a set time period.

Congressional Democrats initially attempted to address the government funding issue alongside the debt limit, a strategy that was thwarted by Republicans in the Senate who have insisted that Democrats must act alone on the debt limit.

CNN's Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav contributed reporting to this post. 

2:25 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Key moderate Sinema's office says she has shared concerns and dollar figures with Schumer and White House

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema walks through the US Capitol on Thursday.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema walks through the US Capitol on Thursday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

In a new statement, key moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s office says that she has shared her concerns about the spending bill — including dollar figures — directly with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the White House, calling claims that she has not detailed her views to Biden and Schumer “false.” 

"Senator Sinema said publicly more than two months ago, before Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that she would not support a bill costing $3.5 trillion. In August, she shared detailed concerns and priorities, including dollar figures, directly with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and the White House. Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator Schumer are false,” said Sinema communications director John LaBombard in a statement.

The statement continues: “Like our bipartisan infrastructure bill, the proposed budget reconciliation package reflects a proposal of President Biden’s — and President Biden and his team, along with Senator Schumer and his team, are fully aware of Senator Sinema’s priorities, concerns, and ideas. While we do not negotiate through the press — because Senator Sinema respects the integrity of those direct negotiations — she continues to engage directly in good-faith discussions with both President Biden and Senator Schumer to find common ground."

2:25 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Jayapal: Progressives will not be able to vote for infrastructure bill until spending bill has passed

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters that half of her caucus is still committed to voting against the bipartisan infrastructure bill, if the larger spending bill is not passed by both chambers.

"We have said clearly and reiterated this again to the Speaker, and we're in the same place, that we will not be able to vote for the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill has passed. So, we're in the same place," Jayapal told reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

"We've been clear that we are ready to vote for both bills and deliver the entirety of the President's agenda," she said.

Jayapal noted that that House members are ready to "stay here all weekend" to see if a deal can be reached, if a consensus cannot be reached today.

"If we can't, then, you know, then we'll have to continue to work on it until we do," she said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, another key progressive, weighed in as well, responding to moderate Sen. Joe Manchin's comments about the need for more Democrats to be elected to pass the $3.5 trillion spending package proposal. Manchin said his top line is $1.5 trillion.

"I think the other piece that, you know, I know the chairwoman has repeated and it keeps getting lost, is that this is not a Progressive agenda. We are fighting for the build back better agenda which is the President's agenda, So if the senator thinks electing more Democrats is how you get it done, then that is something he should state to the President because this is the President's agenda," Omar said.

1:46 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

NOW: Senate voting on funding bill to avert a government shutdown

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

The Senate is voting now on a stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown and keep the government funded through early December.

Schumer said earlier today that he’s “confident the House will approve this measure later this afternoon and send it to the President's desk before funding runs out” at midnight tonight.

1:42 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Progressive House Democrat after Pelosi meeting: “Nothing has really changed”

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Rep. Jared Huffman, a member of the Progressive Caucus who met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, said nothing really changed during the meeting, which he described as “constructive.” 

“I mean, there were many things said and many ways to interpret the things that were said, but nothing has really changed from our perspective. And, you know that includes after our conversation with the speaker, which was very constructive,” he told reporters off camera.

Huffman did not join the gaggle with reporters and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Huffman was asked about some of the statements moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin made during his gaggle earlier about how he’s not a liberal and how if progressives want a bigger reconciliation bill, they should “elect more liberals.” 

“Well, that's certainly not helpful. And if anything, you know, some of those statements really do validate the position that we have taken that we need rock-solid ironclad assurance that the Build Back Better Act is going to happen. Sen. Manchin is not helping the situation with that,” he said. 

1:08 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Rep. Cuellar: If infrastructure vote doesn’t happen it means Democrats "cannot govern"

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from Texas who was part of the group of 10 pushing for a vote by Sept. 27 for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, told reporters if there isn’t a vote it means Democrats “cannot govern.”

“It would mean that the majority, the House, the Senate, the President, all Democrats cannot govern. It would be a blow to the, to the Biden agenda. It will be a blow to all of us if we can't even pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill. We cannot get to a position of self destruction, that is, if (progressives) feel they bring this down, do they really feel that's going to bring us to the table? I think it's, it works the other way around because then people will harden up in their positions. But I think you're seeing, you're going to see a lot of conversations behind the scenes to try to get that level of comfort, where they can move on that,” he said. 
1:14 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Manchin says Biden and other Democrats know his $1.5 trillion top line for spending package 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox

Sen. Joe Manchin walks out of the US Capitol on Thursday.
Sen. Joe Manchin walks out of the US Capitol on Thursday. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a key moderate, said that fellow lawmakers — and President Biden — have known that his top line for the spending bill has been $1.5 trillion, not the proposed $3.5 trillion.

"My top line has been $1.5 [trillion] because I believe in my heart that what we can do and the needs that we have right now, and what we can afford to do, without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality," Manchin told reporters outside the Capitol.

Manchin said he has shared his top line with the President "in the last week or so," and that Biden "would like to have a lot more than that."

"The $1.5 [trillion] was always done from my heart, basically what we could do and not jeopardize our economy," he said.

Manchin made clear an agreement would take a lot of time to reach. He also said he's been consistent, defending his position and making clear he's no liberal.

He also wouldn't explicitly say that he won't support more than $1.5 trillion, despite repeated efforts by reporters to press him on it, but said that's the position he's been in since this summer. He said that $1.5 trillion would be raised by changes he supports to the 2017 Trump tax cuts, including taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

CNN's Manu Raju asked Manchin repeatedly if his absolute top line was $1.5 trillion, but Manchin demurred. When asked what he'd say to people who feel he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, another key moderate, are holding up the legislation, he said:

"We only have 50 votes. Basically take whatever we don't ... come to an agreement with today and take that on the campaign trail next year, and I'm sure that they will get many more liberal progressive Democrats with what they say they want."

Manchin said he hasn't had conversations about bridging the gap between $3.5 trillion and $1.5 trillion. "People pretty much know where I've been all along," he said.

When asked if he'd talk with Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, he said he'd be "happy to sit down and talk with everybody." Progressives have said they will not vote on the infrastructure bill until they strike a deal on the spending bill, and they want the bill to be passed in tandem with infrastructure.

Some more background on Manchin's figure: A Senate Democratic aide confirms to CNN the authenticity of a document from this summer obtained by Politico that shows more detail about what Manchin may want from a social safety net bill. CNN has not yet obtained the document.

The document lays out that Manchin wanted a top line around $1.5 trillion and he did not want to begin debate until Oct. 1. Another condition was that Manchin wanted to block any of the funds from the reconciliation bill from going out until all the Covid-relief money was exhausted.

12:50 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Top House Republican confident "majority" of GOP will oppose infrastructure bill

From CNN's Melanie Zanona

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed confidence during his weekly press conference that a “majority” and “overwhelming” number of House Republicans would oppose the bipartisan infrastructure bill, following an intense whipping operation from GOP leaders. 

When pressed on why so many Republicans in the Senate, but not the House, were willing to support the bill, McCarthy called it a “different time, different place” and blamed Speaker Nancy Pelosi for trying to link the legislation to reconciliation — even though that is something progressives had pushed for even before the bill came over to the House.

McCarthy did signal he would be open to a stopgap measure to fund highway transportation programs, which expire today, but slammed Democrats for careening from “crisis” to “crisis.”

On the debt ceiling, McCarthy said he would oppose changing the process so that Congress doesn’t have to vote on it every single time.