Government shutdown looming amid escalating political row in Congress
House Republicans are set to press for concessions, which include cuts in spending and a reduction of aid to Ukraine.
The looming threat of a US government shutdown becomes increasingly likely with each passing day as members of Congress struggle to find common ground on funding extensions before the end of the month, a new CNN report showed.
Leaders from both sides of the aisle in Congress are racing against time to pass a short-term funding extension, aiming to prevent a government shutdown and maintain essential services. However, the success of this plan remains uncertain due to deep-seated divisions over spending priorities and policy disagreements, particularly concerning aid to Ukraine.
The countdown begins...
Government funding is set to expire at the stroke of midnight on Saturday, September 30, marking the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. If Congress fails to enact legislation to renew funding by this deadline, the federal government will cease non-essential operations and services at midnight. The full impact of the shutdown is expected to become evident at the start of the work week on Monday.
In the event of a government shutdown, many federal operations and services will grind to a halt, except for those categorized as essential.
Federal agencies maintain contingency plans that outline which activities will continue and which will be suspended. Critical functions like border protection, federal law enforcement, and air traffic control are expected to carry on.
In the case of shutdown, non-essential federal employees will be placed on furlough, i.e. they won't work and won't receive pay. On the other hand, essential personnel will continue to work without compensation.
However, after the shutdown ends, the federal workers are required to work during the shutdown and those furloughed receive back pay.
"If you’re a government worker, it’s highly disruptive — whether you’re not going to work or whether you are," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. "If you’re somebody who wants to use one of the services that you can’t get access to … it’s highly disruptive. But for many people … all the things that they are expecting and used to seeing of government are still happening and the inconveniences and the kind of wasted time and wasted resources aren’t things that they see and feel directly."
Political divides and the road ahead
The current standoff in Congress centers on the effort to pass full-year spending legislation, with House conservative hardliners advocating for deep spending cuts and controversial policy add-ons. These additions have been met with resistance from Democrats and some Republicans as too extreme.
With the funding deadline looming, congress seniors from both parties hope to pass a short-term funding extension, commonly known as a "continuing resolution" (CR), to avert a shutdown and provide additional time for broader funding negotiations. However, divisions persist, particularly in the House, where conservatives oppose the short-term funding solution and demand major policy concessions that face Senate rejection.
The issue of aid to Ukraine further complicates the path to a short-term funding bill. Senate Democrats and Republicans support additional aid to Ukraine, which they aim to attach to the short-term funding bill. In contrast, many House Republicans are reluctant to continue sending aid and oppose attaching it to short-term funding.
White House warning
The White House issued a stark warning regarding the potential consequences of a shutdown. The administration estimates that 10,000 children would lose access to Head Start programs (free learning and development services), air traffic controllers and transportation security officers would work without pay, causing travel delays, and food safety inspections by the Food and Drug Administration would also be delayed.
The White House urged House Republicans to prioritize the well-being of Americans over political games and ideological demands.
As the clock ticks down, the nation watches with bated breath, hoping that lawmakers can bridge their differences and avert a government shutdown that could have far-reaching consequences.