In just four days, the U.S. government was poised for its fourth partial shutdown in a decade. House Republicans were swift to dismiss a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at funding agencies until mid-November.
This impending gridlock left hundreds of thousands of federal workers on the brink of furlough and an array of essential services in jeopardy, ranging from economic data releases to vital nutrition benefits. Time was running out; for President Joe Biden to sign the bill into law, Congress had to act before midnight on Saturday (0400 GMT on Sunday).
The Funding Dispute
On Tuesday, the Senate decisively voted 77-19 to commence discussions on the proposed measure, which would sustain government funding until November 17. Additionally, it included provisions for approximately $6 billion in domestic disaster response and another $6 billion earmarked for aid to Ukraine.
In a surprising twist, prominent House Republicans staunchly rejected the Senate’s stopgap proposal. Their argument centered on the need for any short-term funding legislation to tackle the issue of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a key Republican figure, articulated their stance, asserting that the Senate bill merely perpetuated President Biden’s open-border approach. Scalise emphasized the public’s call to address this pressing border concern.
Interestingly, despite their vocal opposition, the House Republicans, who held a slim 221-212 majority, had not put forth their own comprehensive government funding proposal. Instead, they aimed to pass a series of bills covering the entire fiscal year, set to commence on Sunday.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy confronts a daunting challenge within his own party as hardline members, dissatisfied with the $1.59 trillion discretionary spending deal he brokered with President Biden in May for fiscal 2024, are now demanding a further $120 billion in reductions. Adding to McCarthy’s troubles, a small faction of these hardliners has even threatened to depose him from his leadership position if he endorses a spending bill reliant on Democratic support.
On the Brink of Disaster
In response to this internal turmoil, McCarthy has indicated that House Republicans might present their own temporary funding measure on Friday, signaling a potential shift in strategy.
This standoff unfolds against the backdrop of recent events, with Washington having teetered on the brink of defaulting on the nation’s colossal $31 trillion debt just four months prior. Such a default could have sent shockwaves through global financial markets. This recurring brinkmanship deeply concerns credit rating agencies; Moody’s has already issued a warning that a shutdown could harm the nation’s creditworthiness, potentially leading to another downgrade. Such a downgrade could further elevate borrowing costs and exacerbate the nation’s debt burden.
It is important to note that the funding dispute primarily centers on a relatively modest portion of the total U.S. budget, set at $6.4 trillion for the current fiscal year. Notably, lawmakers are not considering cuts to widely popular benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which are expected to experience significant growth due to an aging population.
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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.