US Government Facing Possible Partial Shutdown Starting Sunday – On Sunday, a potential partial shutdown of the U.S. government looms as the Senate and House of Representatives remain divided on multiple issues, including the budget for the next year, continued assistance to Ukraine against Russia, immigration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border, and social welfare programs for impoverished Americans.
The Democratic-controlled Senate intends to hold a procedural vote this Thursday to advance a seven-week funding plan. This plan aims to maintain full government operations until mid-November, allowing more time for lawmakers to determine spending levels until September 2024. However, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who leads a narrow Republican majority, has already rejected the Senate’s proposal for a House vote.
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Instead, the House is persistently voting on amendments for year-long appropriations bills for four government agencies, which have minimal chances of Senate approval and would not prevent a potential shutdown on Saturday at midnight, except for essential government functions. Government agencies have begun notifying their employees about the possibility of a shutdown.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has cautioned lawmakers about the severe consequences of a government partial shutdown, particularly regarding challenges in managing the influx of migrants at the southern U.S.-Mexico border. “Shutting down the government is not like pressing pause,” McConnell said. “It’s not an interlude that lets us pick up where we left off. It’s an actively harmful proposition.”
“And instead of producing any meaningful policy outcomes, it would actually take the important progress being made on a number of key issues and drag it backward.” If a short-term funding agreement cannot be reached, over 4 million U.S. military personnel and government employees may not receive their salaries. However, essential services like air traffic control and official border entry points would remain operational.
Pensioners might experience delays in their monthly government payments, affecting their ability to cover bills and purchase groceries. Additionally, national parks could face closure. In the past decade, the U.S. has witnessed four such government shutdowns, typically lasting only a day or two until lawmakers reach a compromise to fully reopen government operations.
Notably, one of these shutdowns, which occurred during former President Donald Trump’s administration, extended for 35 days as he sought unsuccessfully to secure funding for a border wall. With a daily influx of thousands of migrants crossing the southwestern U.S. border, immigration controls have become a critical factor in determining U.S. government spending levels and policies for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts this Sunday.
Earlier in May, McCarthy brokered an agreement with President Joe Biden, a Democrat, regarding spending levels for fiscal 2024. However, a small faction of far-right House Republicans rejected this agreement and is now pushing for additional spending reductions. The initial McCarthy-Biden deal outlined $1.59 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2024, but some right-wing members of the House Freedom Caucus are demanding an additional $120 billion in cuts, particularly focusing on bolstering border controls.
It’s worth noting that these cuts represent a relatively small fraction of the overall $6.4 trillion U.S. budget and would not impact pension payments or government-provided health insurance for older Americans. Furthermore, some of the most conservative lawmakers are advocating for a significant reduction or complete cessation of U.S. aid to Ukraine.
This stance contrasts with more mainstream Republican lawmakers who strongly support providing assistance to Ukraine in its resistance against Russia’s invasion, considering it vital to U.S. national security and the protection of NATO countries in Europe. The Senate’s temporary spending plan extending until mid-November may secure approval in the House, but it will likely require support from both Republican and Democratic members.
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In the midst of Washington’s political divisions, hardline Republican lawmakers determined to reduce spending have threatened to challenge McCarthy’s position as Speaker of the House if he attempts to pass a spending bill with Democratic votes. Biden told a group of donors at a fundraiser in San Francisco on Wednesday, “I think that the speaker is making a choice between [retaining] the speakership and American interests.”
McCarthy suggested on Tuesday that a shutdown could be avoided if Biden would negotiate on border issues. “Call us up, let’s sit down and get this done before the end of the day,” McCarthy said. But Trump, the leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate to run against Biden as he seeks reelection, has taken to social media to push his congressional allies toward a shutdown.