4Star Politics: Rep. Cleaver’s number one agenda while facing debt ceiling, massive spending

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with President Joe Biden Wednesday afternoon. The meeting came as the leaders struggle to get their party to unite ahead of a key vote scheduled to take place Thursday.

Democrats are trying to pass more than $4 trillion in infrastructure and social programs at the center of President Joe Biden’s agenda — and at the same time avert a government shutdown and prevent a federal default that could send financial markets crashing.

In this week’s edition of 4Star Politics, FOX4’s John Holt and The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling are joined by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver in Washington, D.C. to talk about the critical vote, and what happens if lawmakers can’t agree on the legislation.

“The number one agenda right now is passing the CR, the Congressional Resolution, because we cannot default on our debt and it maybe helpful for people to know who are watching, when we’re talking about raising the debt ceiling, we’re not talking about raising the debt ceiling for what we’re doing right now. We’re raising the debt ceiling for what’s been done previously. This is paying our previous debts,” Cleaver said.

Holt pointed out that while the government runs out of money Oct. 1, we have until Oct. 18 before America would default on any debt.

“You don’t think the government is going to default on its debts, do you, really?” Holt asked.

“It depends on whether what Sen. McConnell says and he says they are not going to, Republicans are not going to vote for it,” Cleaver said. “So, if I believe that then I realize that there is a real possibility that we could default. It’s something that I don’t think any American wants to even consider or watch their Representatives do.”

Rep. Cleaver said that according to the U.S. Treasury, if the U.S. defaults, 6 million jobs will be lost and the country’s credit rating will suffer.

“For me, we can’t mess around with the debt ceiling. We can’t, we absolutely can’t mess with it. It’s too important for the United States,” Cleaver said.

The issue of increasing the debt ceiling is in addition to two infrastructure bills passed in August.

The first is a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It has been bottled up in the House since August, on hold while the Democratic Party has fought over the details of the much larger separate package, which would spend $3.5 trillion over a decade.

“Hopefully we can start dealing with whether or not we are interested in passing the $1.5, $1.3 whatever it might be, infrastructure bill, which I support 100%. There are projects in there for my congressional district, and for many of the members’ districts,” Cleaver said.

House progressives say they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless there is agreement on the larger bill, which delayed a vote planned for Wednesday afternoon. With no deal in hand, Pelosi pushed a vote on the infrastructure bill to Thursday to buy time for negotiations.

The infrastructure bill would authorize nearly $550 billion in new spending over five years for public works in all corners of the country. There’s money to rebuild roads and bridges, shore up coastlines against climate change, protect public utility systems from cyberattacks and modernize the electric grid. It would also pay for new public transit projects, upgrades and repairs to airports and railroads and the replacement of lead drinking water pipes.

House Republican leaders are encouraging their members to oppose it. That’s because Democrats are linking it to the larger legislation with social and environmental priorities.

Democrats are trying to pass the separate $3.5 trillion measure on their own by using an elaborate process called budget reconciliation. Using it allows the bill to bypass an otherwise certain GOP filibuster. But Democrats can’t move forward until they reach agreement among themselves on what the legislation should contain.

The bill as drafted includes an assortment of long-time Democratic priorities, including an expansion of existing health, education and child care programs for Americans young and old. Republicans are lockstep opposed to the plan, which would be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 26.5% on businesses earning more than $5 million a year, and by raising the top rate on individuals from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.

Besides the disagreements in the House, moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are making a stand of their own, saying they can’t support a package that totals $3.5 trillion, even if Democrats succeed in covering the cost with tax increases and other revenue. Manchin has previously proposed spending $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.

FOX4 and The Kansas City Star are partnering to bring you 4Star Politics, a special digital venture with new episodes released Wednesdays at 5 p.m.

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