We Are Not There Yet: Vote On Infrastructure Bill Delayed As Biden Budget Negotiations Drag

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Government shutdown narrowly avoided as Congress passes funding billRepublicans only got on board after Democrats removed a provision raising the debt ceiling.Staff video, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The House delayed a vote Thursday on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as negotiations continue on separate legislation with President Joe Biden's social welfare priorities.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office said late Thursday the House will take no more votes after talks between key lawmakers and White House officials lasted into the evening. 

Officials and lawmakers are expected to resume talks Friday. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday she wouldn't call a vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill without also having legislative language for whatever compromise is reached with the Senate and White House on the $3.5 trillion package of Biden's priorities. She also said she wouldn't call a vote that would fail on the floor.

Dozens of progressive Democrats threatened to vote against the infrastructure bill unless it moved in tandem with the larger package. If Republicans united against the measure, a loss of four Democrats could have rejected the bill.

The bill was the result of weeks of negotiations over the spring and summer among Republicans, Democrats and Biden. In August, the bill was approved in the Senate on a bipartisan, 69-30 vote. 

A person familiar with the conversations but not authorized to speak on the record told USA TODAY that top aides to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., met with White House officials to try to nail down a compromise on Biden's budget package to get moderate Democratic senators on board.

They said the officials and aides are working on language that could bring Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona on board. 

The negotiations capped a busy day in the nation's capital. Congress passed a separate piece of legislation Thursday to avert a government shutdown hours before a midnight deadline. The chambers approved the measure that funds the government through Dec. 3, sending the bill to Biden for his signature. 

White House: ‘Closer to an agreement than ever,’ but more time needed

After a day of intense negotiations failed to lead to an agreement, the White House late Thursday said more time is needed to unite all Democrats around two bills that make up President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki touted progress over the past week, saying “we are closer to an agreement than ever” in a statement released after House Democrats delayed a scheduled vote on Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

“But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing.”

Late into the night, White House officials negotiated with moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who have opposed the price tag of Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan. Without its passage, progressive House Democrats vowed to vote down the infrastructure bill.

“While Democrats do have some differences,” Psaki said, “we share common goals of creating good union jobs, building a clean energy future, cutting taxes for working families and small businesses, helping to give those families breathing room on basic expenses — and doing it without adding to the deficit, by making those at the top pay their fair share.”

-- Joey Garrison

No vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill tonight

The House will not be voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill Thursday, Democratic leadership announced, after negotiations stretched into the night but bore no fruit. 

A notice from House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to his caucus noted: "Members are advised that no further votes are expected in the House tonight."

The delay comes after key moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., did not come to an agreement with negotiators on a separate budget spending bill.

--Savannah Behrmann

Manchin: No deal on budget reached after meeting with White House officials 

  1. Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema emerged from a meeting with White House officials saying a deal would almost certainly not be reached tonight on reconciliation.

“I don’t see a deal tonight,” West Virginia's Manchin told reporters as he left the Capitol at 10:00 p.m.

He reiterated that he is trying to make “sure they understand, I'm at $1.5 trillion. I think $1.5 trillion does exactly the necessary things we need to do."

Earlier in the day, Manchin said $1.5 trillion was his ceiling. That is far lower than the $3.5 trillion progressives are seeking for the spending bill. 

Sinema, of Arizona, did not respond to reporters' questions as she left the meeting. 

Manchin says he'll be in D.C. through the weekend to keep working on a deal. “I think it will be shortly, hopefully we can come to an agreement shortly.”

-- Savannah Behrmann

Sanders: Late night negotiating ‘absurd way to do business’

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blasted Democratic leadership and negotiators -- who are currently immersed in closed-door negotiations to try to find a common path forward on reconciliation and infrastructure -- for waiting so late. 

“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,” Sanders told reporters after emerging from Schumer’s office. 

Whether a vote for infrastructure happens later tonight is still to be seen. Pelosi and other moderates are insisting it will be brought to a vote, but House Progressives say they have votes to tank the bipartisan legislation unless something happens on reconciliation. 

Sanders reiterated that the reconciliation bill is too important to come together so quickly during these late hours. 

-- Savannah Behrmann

Biden statement on signing the bill

"Tonight, I signed into law the continuing resolution to fund the government through early December. 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.

"There’s so much more to do. But 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."

More: Biden signs bill to avert government shutdown, approves bill to fund government through Dec. 3

Biden signs legislation to avert government shutdown

President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday evening that avoided a government shutdown that was looming just hours away. 

The House and Senate both approved the legislation earlier in the day. 

It would fund the government through Dec. 3.

The vote capped days of drama in Washington, where a lack of action had federal offices preparing contingency and furlough plans for if the government shut down. 

A deal to keep the government running materialized Wednesday evening after Democrats gave up on an effort to include a provision to raise the nation's limit on borrowing.

-- Savannah Behrmann and Bart Jansen

Debt limit debate shifts to October

The debt ceiling debate shifts to October, ahead of another deadline when Treasury Department has warned money would run out to pay past bills.

The Treasury has taken steps to preserve cash, but once it runs out, it will be forced to rely on incoming revenue to pay its obligations. That would likely mean delays in payments to Social Security recipients, veterans and government workers, including military personnel. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank, projects that the federal government would be unable to meet about 40% of payments due in the several weeks that follow.

-- Associated Press

White House officials meeting with Democratic leadership on a budget compromise

A person familiar with the conversations but not authorized to speak on the record told USA TODAY that top aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have been meeting with White House officials to try to nail down a compromise on reconciliation to get moderate Democratic senators on board.

They said the officials and aides are working on language that could bring bring Sens. Manchin and Sinema on board.

— Savannah Behrmann

Jayapal unaware of a potential new negotiating number for a budget deal

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told USA TODAY Thursday afternoon she had not been told of a new negotiating number from Senate Democrats.

“No, I’m not [aware]. I'm waiting for somebody to tell me what's going on, on that side, but in the meantime we're in the same place we've always been,” she said.

Those familiar told USA TODAY the number was dipping from $3.5 trillion to the $2 trillion range.

“If they send something over, I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see it.”

Jayapal told reporters that if the Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, wanted to stay through the weekend to get reconciliation done, progressives would be on board.

But for now, she said this evening’s vote on the separate bipartisan infrastructure bill was not going to happen, in her opinion.

-- Savannah Behrmann

Democrat who opposed $3.5T calls for approval of infrastructure

One of a handful of House Democrats concerned about the size of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs said Thursday it is “past time” for the House to approve the infrastructure bill.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida previously opposed the larger package in the Ways and Means Committee because of concerns about the targeting of taxation and spending. But Murphy, who met Sept. 22 with Biden, said approving the infrastructure bill would demonstrate Congress can act amid polarized politics.

“The speaker has committed that she will be bringing it to the floor and I think it absolutely must pass because as Democrats and Republicans, we have to demonstrate to the American people that we can still govern in this very partisan time,” Murphy said. “Infrastructure has long been a bipartisan issue and this bipartisan bill has a lot of very good things for the American people. It is well past time that Congress delivers.”

-- Bart Jansen

Senate Democrats negotiating in the $2 trillion range on reconciliation

Senate Democrats crafting a budget bill packed with progressive policy changes now are negotiating in the range of $2 trillion, per those familiar with the discussions.

That is far lower than the $3.5 trillion progressives in both the House and Senate want, but more than the $1.5 trillion Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Thursday was his ceiling.

Several House progressive sources told USA TODAY they had not yet heard about the $2 trillion number now being negotiated.

On Thursday, the White House would not say whether President Joe Biden would back the slimmed down version of the bill Manchin said he would support. Press secretary Jen Psaki said negotiations on the $3.5 trillion plan were ongoing.

--  Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

Gottheimer ‘optimistic’ about infrastructure

One of the moderate House Democrats insisting on a Thursday vote on infrastructure legislation said he still expects vote – and a victory.

“We're voting today,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “I left completely upbeat and optimistic. We're going to get the votes. We're going to bring this home.”

He is one of nine moderates who negotiated for a vote on the Senate approved legislation in exchange for supporting a framework for a $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s social welfare programs. Details of the larger package are still under negotiation.

But progressive House Democrats have threatened to oppose infrastructure until it can be considered in tandem with the larger packag.

-- Bart Jansen

White House still pushing infrastructure vote Thursday despite divisions

Despite warnings from progressive House Democrats who remain uncommitted, the White House said it is still pushing for a vote in the House Thursday on Biden’s infrastructure bill.

“We're working towards winning a vote tonight,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We have several hours left in the day.”

Liberal House Democrats have said they won’t vote for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which cleared the Senate with bipartisan support in August, unless there is progress on Biden’s more expansion $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. But moderate Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain uncommitted to that legislation.

“That’s what we’re working toward now,” Psaki said of a vote Thursday. “That’s what the president has been making phone calls about.”

– Joey Garrison

White House doesn’t commit to Manchin’s $1.5 trillion reconciliation ask

The White House would not say Thursday whether President Joe Biden would back a social spending bill that is trimmed to $1.5 trillion – a level that Sen. Joe Manchin said he told the president he could support.

"As we've said many times, we're not going to outline private negotiations or private discussions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki characterized negotiations on Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan as ongoing, even as Democrats remain divided before a House vote scheduled for Thursday on Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

“We know that timelines helped make progress,” Psaki said. “We've seen that play out over the course of the last couple of days. We know that compromise is inevitable. We've also seen that play out over the last couple of days. And right now, we're clearly in the thick of it.”

– Joey Garrison

Yellen: 'Yes I would' support eliminating debt ceiling

Congress has voted more than a dozen times in the last 20 years to increase the amount of money the federal government can borrow to cover its regular obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, though, thinks Congress should take another route: eliminating the so-called “debt ceiling” altogether.

Asked during testimony in a congressional committee on Thursday if she would support eliminating the cap on federal borrowing, Yellen said “yes I would.”

“I believe when Congress legislates expenditures and puts in place tax policy that determines taxes, those are the crucial decisions Congress is making,” she said. “If to finance those spending and tax decisions, it’s necessary to issue additional debt, I believe it’s very destructive to put the president and myself, the Treasury secretary, in a situation where we might not be able to pay the bills that result from those past decisions.”

– Rick Rouan

More: What happens if the government runs out of money? How debt ceiling crisis could impact your finances

Senate approves funding to avert shutdown, bill goes to House

The Senate passed legislation Thursday that would extend funding for the federal government to Dec. 3 and narrowly avert a shutdown at midnight.

The Senate voted 65-35 to approve the bill, which includes $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.

The legislation now heads to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the chamber would approve it and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“We hope this can be a strongly bipartisan bill because it keeps loyal services running, protects up to hundreds of thousands of workers from furloughs and protects the economy from shutdown,” Pelosi said. “A shutdown is not anything anyone wants.”

– Bart Jansen

Sinema's office says White House, Schumer know her 'detailed concerns and priorities' on budget bill

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's office said Thursday the president and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have known her budget priorities and concerns for weeks.

Sinema, a moderate Democrat and crucial vote in the divided Senate, said months ago she opposed the initial $3.5 trillion proposal by Senate Democrats.

Her objections to the price tag and other provisions, including universal pre-K and paid family leave, have amped up pressure for her to articulate publicly exactly what she wants to see in the budget reconciliation proposal, which is packed with progressive policies and can pass with a simple majority in the divided Senate if all Democrats support it.

"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," a statement from her spokesman John LaBombard said. "In August, she shared detailed concerns and priorities, including dollar figures, directly with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and the White House."

LaBombard said claims by House progressives that Sinema has not detailed her views to President Joe Biden and the majority leader are inaccurate.

-- Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Arizona Republic

Sen. Joe Manchin: $1.5T is his limit on Biden social spending bill

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said Thursday that $1.5 trillion is the highest price tag he would support on President Joe Biden's social spending bill.

That is much lower than the $3.5 trillion Biden proposed and what progressives want for a bill that includes a number of liberal priorities, such as subsidized caregiving, childcare, pre-kindergarten and community college.  

Manchin said he will not support a big social spending bill considering the money Congress has proposed for the bipartisan infrastructure bill – $550 billion in new spending – and the trillions for COVID-19 relief the government spent during the pandemic.

“I've never been a liberal in any way shape or form,” Manchin said.

Manchin confirmed that he signed an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in July setting the $1.5 trillion price tag as his spending limit. He said he did so as a precondition to voting in favor of a Senate budget resolution later in August.

Manchin is one of two Democratic senators unhappy with the current price tag. Without his support on a reconciliation bill, it cannot pass through the Senate, where it needs all 50 Democratic-voting senators in favor. Republicans oppose the bill. 

– Savannah Behrmann

Sen. Bernie Sanders: House should delay infrastructure bill vote

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the House should delay a Thursday vote on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

“If it's pushed back two more weeks, it doesn't matter. It will pass. But it must pass in tandem” with a $3.5 trillion budget bill packed with progressive policies, said Sanders, who helped craft the budget bill.

“You think the world will collapse?” the Senate Budget Committee chairman asked. “Who decided that today was a pivotal day.”

He also said he was “confident” an agreement could be reached with Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – though he conceded it wouldn’t happen on Thursday.

“We are talking about the most consequential piece of legislation for working people in the modern history of this country, it's not a baseball game,” he said.

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

Sen. Mark Warner: House should vote on infrastructure bill to help Virginia governor race

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who helped pen the bipartisan infrastructure package, said House Democrats should vote Thursday on the bill.

Why? He points to a nail-biting race for governor of Virginia, where polls have shown a slight lead for former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe over Republican Glenn Youngkin. Virginia voters already are casting ballots in the race amid Democratic infighting in Washington over the infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion bill with a number of President Joe Biden's priorities.

He said House Democrats should look at “a state that's right now up with a key vote.”

“Virginians are out real-time voting,” Warner said. They have “enormous needs” on “infrastructure, and as somebody who has committed to doing reconciliation as well, let's ensure that can help us in Virginia.”

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confident House will approve infrastructure

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the House would approve a bipartisan infrastructure bill despite opposition from progressive Democrats.

“I’m only envisioning taking it up and winning it,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.

A number of House Democratic progressives have threatened to vote against the infrastructure bill unless negotiations are complete on a $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.

Pelosi had hoped to have legislative language for compromises with the Senate on the $3.5 trillion package. But she said negotiations on infrastructure are moving in a positive direction because the talks on the larger package fit President Joe Biden’s vision.

“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Pelosi said. “We’re making progress.”

– Bart Jansen

Rep. Steny Hoyer not confident infrastructure bill will pass

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he isn’t confident the infrastructure bill scheduled for a vote Thursday will be approved.

The bill approved in the Senate is on the calendar, but lawmakers are still working behind the scenes on it, he said.

Asked if he was confident if it would pass, he replied: “Nope.”

– Bart Jansen

Nancy Pelosi: $3.5T budget bill ‘culmination of my service in Congress’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is thinking about legacy this week as her time with the gavel winds down and Congress considers a $3.5 trillion bill that contains much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“I just told the members of my leadership the reconciliation bill will be the culmination of my service in Congress,” Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference.

Pelosi was referring to the $3.5 trillion measure, which includes a number of liberal initiatives such as subsidized caregiving and childcare, pre-kindergarten and community college. Democrats are trying to pass the bill using a process called "reconciliation," which would allow the Senate to approve the bill without Republican support.

Pelosi has said 2020 would be her last term as speaker.

– Rick Rouan

Sen. Dick Durbin: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin ‘had their chance’

Sen. Dick Durbin expressed frustration on Thursday with fellow Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have opposed a broader $3.5 trillion bill of social welfare initiatives because they say its price tag is too large.  

“They’ve had their chance. They’ve made their case,” said Durbin of Illinois. “They should close this deal. Too much is at stake with this to just be hanging on. We may be at a point where it's difficult to close the deal.”

Both Manchin and Sinema have been meeting with White House officials in recent days about the bill, a wide-ranging package that includes much of President Joe Biden’s agenda. 

“After weeks of this, there comes a point where, if you want to leave your mark on this process, now's the time to do it,” he said

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

Sen. Chuck Schumer confident funding bill gets approved to avert government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted the Senate and House would approve a short-term extension of government funding Thursday to avert a potential shutdown at midnight.

Senate votes will begin at 11:05 a.m. EST. Republicans will offer three amendments. If passed, the bill would then go to the House.

“I’m confident the House will approve this measure later this afternoon and send it to the president’s desk before funding runs out. This is a good outcome,” Schumer said. “With so many things to take care of here in Washington, the last thing Americans need is for the government to grind to a halt.”

– Bart Jansen

Mitch McConnell: Democrats have 'accepted reality' on government funding 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Democrats will be able to extend government funding because they are following a Republican road map, with aid for disasters and Afghan refugees, rather than including an increase in the debt limit.

“We are able to fund the government today because the majority accepted reality,” McConnell said.

But McConnell lamented the lack of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense program.

“It honestly baffles me that defensive aid to our ally Israel has become a thorny subject for the political left,” he said.

– Bart Jansen

Cotton, Marshall, Braun offer amendments to funding bill

Amendments to the funding bill the Senate will take up Thursday include:

  • Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., proposed to modify the eligibility of Afghan refugees for benefits in the United States.
  • Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, proposed to prohibit federal funding for COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
  • Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., proposed to block congressional pay after Oct. 1 in any year when the budget and spending bills aren't approved.

– Bart Jansen

Congress also faces big decisions on infrastructure bill, debt limit, budget bill

Approval of the short-term spending bill is one of four thorny problems facing Congress in the next few weeks. The other challenges deal with the debt limit, infrastructure and a major package of social welfare programs.

Democrats had tried to approve the funding in combination with an increase in the country’s borrowing authority. But Senate Republicans blocked those moves, to force Democrats to raise the debt limit on their own.

Time is running out on the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress the country’s borrowing authority will be exhausted by Oct. 18.

– Bart Jansen

Pelosi: Infrastructure bill vote is still on for now, despite opposition from progressives 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday morning the bipartisan infrastructure vote was still on for later in the day.

"That is our plan," Pelosi said. 

This comes just hours before the vote, where the speaker is facing big opposition from progressives within her caucus who want to delay passing the legislation until a separate $3.5 trillion budget spending bill is also voted on.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed confidence to reporters Wednesday night she had the votes to tank the legislation. 

Jayapal and other progressives are worried about their leverage with the larger package that includes many progressive domestic priorities. They do not believe House moderates will keep their word in voting for the larger budget bill at a later date if they've already passed the smaller bill.

Asked about the insurmountable opposition, Pelosi repeated what she said Wednesday night, that she is taking it "hour by hour."

– Savannah Behrmann and Rick Rouan

House set to vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on one of the largest public works bills in history at $1.2 trillion, which includes $550 billion in new spending.

But debate on the popular bill has been held up because of negotiations over a $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s social welfare priorities.

The conflict is between moderate House Democrats who want a victory on infrastructure while negotiations continue on the larger package, and progressive Democrats, who want both bills to move in tandem.

In the narrowly divided House, if Republicans unify in opposing both bills, the loss of four Democrats could kill either bill.

A group of nine moderates negotiated for a Monday vote on the bill, which slipped to Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., repeated Wednesday that she wants both bills to move together. But she also said the vote would occur as planned. At the end of the day, she said she was taking things “one hour at a time.”

“The plan is to bring the bill to the floor,” Pelosi said.

But Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said dozens of progressives would oppose the infrastructure bill on its own. She said contentious remarks Wednesday from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would drive more opposition to the bill.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been negotiating to reduce the $3.5 trillion price tag on the larger package. Manchin issued a statement Wednesday that it would be “fiscal insanity” to approve that much spending while government programs such as Social Security and Medicare aren’t fully funded.

“That’s a shame,” Manchin said of a possible rejection of infrastructure. “That’s the best bill you got. It’s the most important thing we have.”

Source : https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/30/congress-government-funding-averting-shutdown-infrastructure/5927545001/

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