By Jarrett Renshaw
President Joe Biden faces a series of deadlines in the upcoming weeks that may define the next years of his presidency and could affect the 2022 midterm congressional elections.
Biden is grappling with his first real challenge on the global stage as he races to complete evacuations of Americans and allies out of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, at home Biden must shepherd two spending measures, totaling a combined $4.5 trillion, to pay for key policy priorities, while raising the nation’s debt limit, amid a divided congress and warring factions within his Democratic Party.
Biden’s self-imposed deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is imminent, leaving a narrow timeline to finish evacuating Americans and Afghan allies. Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops out of the country after 20 years of war is widely popular, and he set a withdrawal deadline months later than predecessor Donald Trump. Over 70,000 people have been evacuated from the country to date.
But Biden has faced bipartisan criticism for misjudging the Afghan army’s ability to fight a Taliban insurgency and potentially leaving thousands of Americans and allies stranded.
Biden has asked the Pentagon and the State Department to prepare contingency plans to stay in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31 if it becomes necessary. The Taliban has warned the United States they would not accept any delays to the withdrawal.
Democratic Party leaders have set this date for all congressional committees to craft their portions of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, a critical step before the massive bill can pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Each committee has been given specific funding levels and recommendations, but it’s up to members to hammer out the final details. The White House hopes the expedited process will help generate support for the broader bill and signal its ultimate success.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, agreed to a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package by this date, after a group of 10 centrist Democrats said they would not vote on the party’s $3.5 trillion spending package until the bipartisan bill passed.
The Sept. 27 deadline means the House could vote on the bipartisan bill weeks before the budget package is ready. Biden and Pelosi had originally promised to pass the bills in tandem.
The end of the federal fiscal year is when the budget to fund the government needs to be passed by Congress to avoid a shutdown. Also expiring that day are some special pandemic-related food benefits and COVID-19-related paid sick leave that were key parts of Biden’s aid plan.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has set this date for lawmakers to raise the statutory debt limit – now at $28.5 trillion – or else the United States will lose its borrowing capacity, triggering another federal government shutdown or a debt default.
Typically, there is bipartisan support to raise debt levels to honor the country’s financial commitments. But Republicans have said they won’t raise the debt ceiling to allow Democrats to push through massive spending bills that create new commitments and add to the nation’s debt.
The national debt ballooned by almost 40% to nearly $28 trillion under Trump, fueled by the passage of tax cuts in 2017 and a flood of spending in 2020 to counter the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic.