Status: 28/09/2023, 15:32 p.m.
Once again, a battle is raging in the United States over the budget. A so-called shutdown is imminent. What role do the Republicans play in this?
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A government shutdown this weekend is becoming increasingly likely, as Republicans in the House of Representatives indicated on Wednesday (Sept. 27) that they will not consider a bipartisan Senate plan to fund the government beyond the weekend.
In light of the stalemate in Congress, the White House (Office of Management and Budget) on Wednesday instructed federal agencies to update their staff on the state of government funding, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. These updates will come on Thursday morning as part of the government's mandatory emergency process.
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Authorities will begin informing their staff later this week if they will be furloughed, but it is unclear when exactly. Senior officials across the federal government have already begun discussing who will be affected by the work freeze and who will continue to work without pay, one of the people said.
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On Capitol Hill, the two chambers are working in different ways to extend government funding, which expires at 12:01 p.m. on Sunday. The Senate worked on Wednesday on a bill that would continue funding at current levels until mid-November, which would also allocate some of the billions of dollars requested by President Joe Biden for U.S. aid to Ukraine and for aid in the event of natural disasters. However, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Republican, California) opposed this measure and told his conference in a closed session Wednesday morning that he would not put the Senate bill to a vote in its current form.
There are apparently no talks underway between the House of Representatives and the Senate on a short-term spending bill that both chambers can agree on. Instead, each chamber will try to pass its own bill and ask the other chamber to adopt or reject it.
Biden said a shutdown would be "catastrophic."
"We've made a deal," Biden said Wednesday night at a Democratic fundraiser in San Francisco, referring to a June agreement with McCarthy to suspend the debt ceiling and cap federal spending for this year. "Now they're coming along and saying we didn't mean it."
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McCarthy has begun in private talks this week to outline alternative plans for the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to counter bipartisan advances in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The speaker suggested taking the Senate's short-term bill, cleaning it up for provisions rejected by Republicans — including emergency aid for Ukraine and domestic disaster victims — and then pinning a border security bill passed by the House of Representatives to it and sending it back to the Senate.
Separately, McCarthy and his allies have continued to encourage their colleagues to pass a short-term budget bill on Friday, dubbed a "Continuing Resolution" (CR), which includes funds for border security — a signal of defiance to the Senate. Exactly how long the CR would last is still an open question, but the contours largely follow the agreement reached last week by the pragmatic Main Street Caucus and the Freedom Caucus. That would mean spending on most federal agencies would be cut by about 8 percent, but spending on the military and veterans would remain untouched.
U.S. shutdown threatens: blockade also causes resentment among Republicans
In the event of a government shutdown, GOP leaders in the House of Representatives would seek to pass week-long short-term funding measures that would significantly cut federal spending from where it stands. The GOP would try to send them to the Senate one by one and challenge the Democrats in the upper house to reject them. In the meantime, the House of Representatives would continue to work on grant legislation, the longer-term measures used to fund federal agencies and programs for an entire fiscal year.
However, the GOP in the House of Representatives may lack the votes to pass short-term bills, and controversial provisions and amendments in the annual grant bills could force McCarthy to withhold those from the House as well.
"That's going to make a difference as we get to the finish line this week," House Majority Leader Tom Emmer (R., Minnesota) said Wednesday. "But that's not the finish line, because we're probably going to have more [grant templates] in the next few weeks. And as the process progresses, everyone will be heard. We'll see what happens."
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), flanked by other Republicans, addresses journalists outside the House of Representatives on Tuesday. © Tom Brenner/The Washington Post
The deadlock between the two chambers seemed to anger even Senate Republicans, some of whom have fought the government stalemate in recent years and have drawn the political consequences.
"It's important to remember that if we shut down the government, for those of us who are worried about the border and want it to be improved, the border patrol and immigration and customs agents will have to continue to work for free," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) said Wednesday. "The Senate and the House of Representatives are very different, as you know, and I think that in the Senate, we will continue to try to reach an agreement, pass it on a bipartisan basis, and hopefully keep the government open.
"Seventy-seven percent of Americans think we shouldn't shut down the government," added Senator Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), vice chair of the GOP conference, referring to the results of an August poll. "And I'm one of those 77 percent."
Biden and McCarthy had agreed in June on an agreement that was supposed to avert this back and forth. In those talks, Republicans agreed to suspend the debt limit — the amount the federal government can borrow to pay for previously approved spending — to about $2024.1 trillion in 6 in exchange for a cap on spending for purposes other than defense. Taking inflation into account, this would be a cut from the current level of spending.
However, far-right members of McCarthy's conference have called for a lower level of spending and threatened to throw McCarthy out of office as speaker of parliament if he fails to comply. Instead of trying to pass a short-term bill to fund the government with the votes of the Democrats, McCarthy has tried to get more concessions by abandoning the agreement reached in May.
"The Republican majority is in the process of rewriting Congressional muscle memory," Rep. Michael Cloud (R., Texas), a member of the Budget Committee, said Wednesday.
The Democrats in the Senate kept up the pressure on the GOP.
"Speaker McCarthy, the only way out of gridlock is bipartisanship," Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a speech Wednesday. "And if you constantly stick to what the hard right wants, you're aiming for a shutdown. You want it, you know it, you can prevent it. Work bipartisan, as we do in the Senate, and we can prevent harm to millions of Americans."
The House of Representatives debated legislation on Wednesday that would cover parts of the government for the entire fiscal year 2024. While the bills to fund the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security are likely to receive enough support for a full year, leaders are already considering not putting the bills to fund the Agriculture and State Departments to a vote due to political differences within the GOP of the House of Representatives.
In particular, vulnerable Republicans representing districts that Biden won in 2020 remain opposed to strict provisions in the Agriculture Act that would restrict access to medical abortions. Rep. Marcus J. Molinaro (R., New York) said there was a "general concern" among "a line" of Republicans who cannot support the bill.
The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives is counting on these bills to be passed as a goodwill token to convince the hardened right that opposes short-term funding measures. Some of them — enough to thwart a short-term funding bill in a party line vote — have said they would never support a temporary spending extension, which would almost guarantee a gridlock.
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The Senate debated its own short-term funding bill, which easily overcame a procedural hurdle on Tuesday night. But again, there were objections from the GOP, as Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) threatened to delay the passage of the bill because he opposes further aid deliveries to Ukraine.
Paul and other GOP dissenters in the Senate, including Rick Scott (Florida), could use the time to delay the Senate's final vote on the funding bill until Sunday or Monday — and thus beyond the deadline for shutting down Parliament. Leaders of both parties negotiated agreements that would allow votes on a small number of amendments in exchange for a faster path to pass.
"I hope cooler heads will prevail, but at this point we need to brace ourselves for a short-term shutdown," Senator Mike Rounds (R., South Dakota) said Tuesday.
The White House Budget Office said in a statement that the House of Representatives must act.
"It is up to House Republicans to do their job and prevent an unnecessary government shutdown that would harm our economy, our communities, and our national security," the statement said. "In the meantime, prudent planning requires the government to plan for the possibility of a loss of funding."
The Senate bill, which was supported by 28 Republicans as well as all Democrats present, would extend federal government funding at current levels until Nov. 17 and includes $6.2 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine and $6 billion in domestic disaster relief.
McConnell declined to support the idea of a Senate funding measure that would take out Ukraine aid to make it easier to pass in the House of Representatives, where enough Republicans oppose more Ukraine aid to prevent a bill from passing with only the GOP's votes.
"I'm pleased with the way we've put together the Senate bill," McConnell said in a rare flash of bipartisanship. "Basically, it's just an extension until November 17. I think that this elaborated package is the result of many discussions. I think it makes sense for the Senate. I also think it makes sense for the country, and that's what I intend to support."
Matt Viser contributed to this report.
About the authors
Marianna Sotomayor reports on the House of Representatives for the Washington Post, focusing primarily on the leadership of the Democrats and Republicans. Sotomayor joined The Post from NBC News in 2021.
Jeff Stein is an economic reporter for the White House at the Washington Post. He was a crime reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard and founded the nonprofit local news agency Ithaca Voice in upstate New York in 2014. He was also a reporter for Vox.
Jacob Bogage writes about business and technology for The Post, where he has worked since 2015. Previously, he covered the automotive and manufacturing industries and wrote for the sports department.
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English by "Washingtonpost.com" on September 28, 2023 - in the course of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.