U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks with reporters as the deadline to avert a partial government shutdown approaches on Capitol Hill in Washington,/Photo: Reuters
WASHINGTON DC: A U.S. government shutdown is looking inevitable for Sunday as the Senate and House of Representatives remain at odds over the size of its budget for the next 12 months, continued aid for Ukraine to fight Russia, immigration controls at the U.S.-Mexican border and social welfare programs to help impoverished Americans.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is working on a seven-week funding plan that would keep the government fully open through mid-November to give lawmakers more time to set spending levels through September 2024.
However, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, with a narrow Republican majority in his chamber, has already rejected putting the Senate plan to a House vote.
Instead, the House voted late Thursday on amendments to yearlong appropriations bills for four government agencies. The bills have little chance of Senate approval and, in any event, would not prevent a Saturday midnight shutdown of nonessential government operations.
Government agencies on Thursday morning began notifying their workers that a shutdown could be in the offing.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned lawmakers about the dire effects of shutting down part of the government, especially difficulties in controlling the influx of migrants at the country’s southern border with Mexico.
“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 deal cannot be reached, more than 4 million U.S. military service personnel and government workers would not be paid, although essential services, such as air traffic control outlets and official border entry points would still be staffed. Pensioners might not get their monthly government payments on time to pay bills and buy groceries, and national parks could be closed.
Such shutdowns have occurred four times in the last decade in the U.S., but often have lasted just a day or two until lawmakers reach a compromise to fully restart government operations.
But one shutdown that occurred during the administration of former President Donald Trump lasted 35 days as he unsuccessfully sought funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.