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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9:29 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Sanders says infrastructure bill "must be defeated" and calls efforts to cut last-minute deal "absurd"

From CNN's Manu Raju and Lauren Fox 

(CNN)
(CNN)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, standing outside Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office, told CNN that the infrastructure deal should be “defeated.”

The Vermont senator also railed on tonight's late-night dealmaking effort. 

"It is an absurd way to do business, to be negotiating a multi-trillion-dollar bill a few minutes before a major vote with virtually nobody knowing what's going on. That's unacceptable. And I think what has got to happen is that tonight, the bipartisan infrastructure bill must be defeated," Sanders said.

"So I want to see the infrastructure bill passed, but it's absolutely imperative that we pass a strong, reconciliation bill that deals with the needs of working families, and it deals with the existential threat of climate change," he continued.

Meanwhile, moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and White House officials are now meeting together in the Capitol basement. 

This comes as House members were just advised that there will be no votes before 10 p.m. ET this evening, and that the House still stands in recess.  

8:54 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

A Democratic stalemate continues on Capitol Hill. Here's what both sides are saying.

From CNN's Melanie Zanona, Daniella Diaz, Alex Rogers and Annie Grayer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been working furiously behind the scenes this evening to build support for the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, personally calling Democrats and talking to members on the House floor as progressives threaten to tank it.

Liberal Democrats are expressing confidence they have the numbers to block the bill in order to push moderates to support their top priority: a $3.5 trillion bill known as the Build Back Better Act.

That legislation would expand the child tax credit and Medicare's ability to cover vision, hearing and dental care, fund community college and universal pre-kindergarten initiatives, combat climate change, and fund elder care and paid leave programs.

The $3.5 trillion bill would be paid for, at least in part, by tax increases primarily on corporations and the wealthy.

However, Pelosi's effort to pass the infrastructure bill is complicated by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who said Thursday he would support a much smaller, $1.5 trillion bill expanding the social safety net.

White House officials are huddling with top aides to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and trying to see if they can get a deal with Manchin and fellow moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona on a framework of a social safety net package, according to a senator familiar with the matter.

With a split Senate and a slim hold on the House, Democrats are leveraging their power to make sure their colleagues support their bills, which comprise President Biden's domestic agenda.

Progressives say they'll withhold their support on the bipartisan infrastructure package until moderates strike a deal with them on the Build Back Better Act. Washington state Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman, told CNN she was not worried that her liberal colleagues will break ranks.

"I have never seen our caucus so strong," said Jayapal. "And I'm a very good vote counter, also, maybe not quite as good as Nancy Pelosi sometimes, but I'm excellent."

Read more about where things stand in negotiations here.

9:01 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

White House officials are meeting with Schumer along with Sanders and Sinema

From CNN's Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Ali Zaslav 

White House officials have gone into Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office as efforts continue to try and cement a way forward on infrastructure and Biden’s wider economic package, the Build Back Better plan. 

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, a key moderate, and Bernie Sanders are also meeting with the officials. White House aides Susan Rice and Brian Deese declined to answer questions on how discussions are going as they walked over.

Before going to the meeting, Sinema met with Sen. Joe Manchin, another key moderate, in the basement of the Capitol for roughly 45 minutes this evening.

The effort underway is to find some kind of a framework at a time when progressives are demanding more answers on what moderates want. 

8:48 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

The Progressive Caucus is meeting at 9 p.m. ET tonight

From CNN's Annie Grayer

The Progressive Caucus will have a Zoom meeting at 9 p.m. ET, a source familiar with the meeting tells CNN.

House members were told that the earliest votes could happen was 9 p.m. ET but no votes have been announced officially yet.

Ahead of the meeting, Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal reiterated to Anderson Cooper tonight on AC360, "If I had to bet I would say there's not gonna be a vote tonight" 

"Right now there are not the votes, there is no pressure coming from the speaker to this because she understands, this is — as she said, this is for the children. She wants this build back better agenda just like the President does and just like 96% of Democrats do," she said when asked if she thought she and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were on the same page at this moment.

Anderson asked Jayapal flat-out if she thought Pelosi would bring a floor vote tonight, and she said, "I don't think so Anderson, of course anything could change but even if she does there just aren't the votes there and you know the speaker, he does not bring a vote to the floor that's gonna fail."

Jayapal also said, "..there is no deal on the table. Remember, this has to be a bill that not only Manchin and Sinema agree to, but that all of us in the House will agree to."

7:57 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Pelosi vague on timing of infrastructure bill vote

From CNN's Annie Grayer 

(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked what time she expects a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill to be in the House.

Pelosi didn't provide detail, only saying “when we bring it to the floor.”  

Meanwhile, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told CNN that “we’re making good progress” when asked if Democrats were close to a broader framework on the Build Back Better plan.

When asked if something could come tonight, Sinema said “predictions always make you look dumb."

7:52 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

White House aides huddling in Senate in push for last-ditch deal

From CNN's Manu Raju 

White House aides Brian Deese, Susan Rice and Shuwanza Goff are now in the Senate wing of the Capitol as votes are beginning.

CNN spotted them going to the vice president's office in the Senate.

They’ve been meeting to try to see if they can find a deal between the Democratic leadership — and Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on some sort of framework on the larger bill that could be signed off on by progressives ahead of an infrastructure vote in House.

8:21 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Biden signs resolution to keep federal government open hours before midnight deadline

President Biden has signed the House-passed stopgap funding bill to avert a shutdown and extend government funding through Dec. 3, according to the White House.

The bill passed the Senate earlier today with a bipartisan vote.

“Tonight, I signed into law the continuing resolution to fund the government through early December," Biden said in a statement. "I want to thank both houses of Congress—especially Senators Leahy and Shelby and Representatives DeLauro and Granger—for this bipartisan agreement, and for avoiding a government shutdown as we have seen so often in the past."

"It meets critical and urgent needs of the nation, including disaster relief for both red and blue states hit hard by Hurricane Ida and other devastating natural disasters, and funding to help us resettle Afghan allies in the United States following the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. This funding will also keep up our fight against COVID-19 and—on this International Recovery Day—it will continue our battle against the opioid crisis," the President said.

Though there remains more to do, Biden said, “the passage of this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to pass longer-term funding to keep our government running and delivering for the American people.”

Back on Capitol Hill, different factions of his party are still negotiating over key parts of his domestic agenda, including his bipartisan infrastructure bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scrambling to build support for the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, personally calling Democrats and talking to members on the House floor as progressives threaten to tank it.

Pelosi told reporters she is closer to bringing moderates and progressives together as she works to secure enough votes to pass the Senate-passed bill, which would spend hundreds of billions of dollars upgrading roads, bridges, transit, rail, broadband, airports, ports and waterways.

A source familiar with the whip operation of the House Progressive Caucus tells CNN that the group just completed a status check with their members and their number of “no” votes remains “solid.”

CNN's Melanie Zanona, Daniella Diaz, Alex Rogers and Annie Grayer contributed reporting to this post.  

6:49 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Lawmaker says he's "a thousand percent" sure House will pass infrastructure bill tonight 

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

(CNN)
(CNN)

Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a key moderate, said he continues to stand by his prediction from earlier in the day that the House will vote on and pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal before the night is over.

"A thousand percent," replied the New Jersey congressman, when asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he stood by his optimistic forecast from earlier in the day.

"I'm optimistic," continued Gottheimer. "It's going to be a late night but we've got the Chinese food out and we're going to be eating late...by the time we finish this, we're going to deliver the largest infrastructure investment in a hundred years for our country."

Gottheimer expressed confidence in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's behind the scenes whip operation, saying he believed a sufficient number Democrats would choose to support President Biden's agenda by voting time.

"I think it's tough to vote against, if you're a Democrat right now, to vote against this critical part of the President's agenda," he said. "I don't think anyone wants to tank that...I'm totally optimistic that it's going to pass."

6:10 p.m. ET, September 30, 2021

Biden spoke to Pelosi this afternoon to get update on Democratic stalemate over his domestic agenda

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Biden spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this afternoon to get an update as she attempts to solve a stalemate within the Democratic party over his domestic agenda, according to a senior administration official. 

The funding bill passed by Congress earlier today is on the way to his desk right now. He will likely sign it on camera and could address the last-minute negotiations among Democrats, two people said.