WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Friday ordered federal agencies to prepare for one switch off after the Republicans in the House of Representatives left the city for the weekend without a viable plan to keep the government funded and avert a politically and economically costly disruption to federal services.
A federal shutdown after September 30 seems all but certain, unless the speaker Kevin McCarthy may persuade his rebellious far-right Republican flank to allow Congress to approve a temporary funding measure to prevent shutdowns while talks continue. Instead, he has launched a much more ambitious plan that aims to begin passing several funding bills once the House returns on Tuesday in just five days to resolve the standoff.
“We got members working and hopefully we can move forward on Tuesday to pass these bills,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol.
McCarthy has signaled he would prefer to avoid a shutdown, but a far-right wing of his House majority has effectively taken control. “I still believe that if you shut down you are in a weaker position,” he said.
The fight with House Republicans over government funding jeopardizes a range of activities – including military and law enforcement pay, food security and food assistance programs, air travel and passport processing – and could have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that it was Republicans’ fault if federal workers weren’t being paid. “Our message is: This doesn’t have to happen,” she said. “They can do their jobs and maintain these vital programs and keep the government open.”
With a new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and a lack of funding, the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget began advising federal agencies to review and update their shutdown plans, according to an OMB official. The start of that process suggests federal employees could be notified next week about whether to be furloughed.
President Joe Biden was quick to blame it probably shutdown against Republicans in the House of Representatives who are seeking spending cuts beyond those included in the June deal and also suspending the legal cap on the government’s borrowing authority until early 2025.
“They’re back, breaking their commitment, threatening more cuts, threatening to shut down the government again,” Biden said during a recent speech in suburban Maryland.
McCarthy faces enormous pressure to demand drastic spending cuts from a handful of far-right conservatives in his caucus, essentially hampering his ability to lead the chamber. Many on the right are aligned Donald Trump – the Republican frontrunner who will challenge Biden Election 2024. They were against it the budget deal The speaker contacted Biden earlier this year and tried to dismantle it.
Trump has pushed Republicans in the House of Representatives to oppose federal spending.
Led by Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the right flank has all but seized control of the House debate through a public rebuke of the speaker.
Late Thursday, the far-right caucus urged McCarthy to consider her idea of shelving plans for a stopgap funding measure called a Continuing Resolution (CR) and instead begin tabling the 12 separate bills needed to fund the government are.
House Republican leadership then announced just that — they would begin work on a package of four bills to fund the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Foreign Operations and Agriculture, and schedule a vote for Tuesday when lawmakers return. Work on some bills had been delayed by the same conservatives who were now demanding passage.
“All the progress we are making is in spite of, not thanks to, McCarthy,” Gaetz posted on social media, mocking the speaker for sending lawmakers home over the weekend. “Pathetic.”
Gaetz and his allies say they want the House to get involved in the hard work of legislating — even as it pushes the country into a shutdown — as they pursue significant cuts and cuts.
The House Rules Committee held a meeting Friday afternoon to begin preparing these bills, which in the past required weeks of floor debate with hundreds of amendments but are now scheduled for a vote next week. The committee was due to complete its work on Saturday.
It caps a difficult week for McCarthy, who unsuccessfully tried to advance a typically popular defense spending bill that was defeated twice in embarrassing votes. The speaker appeared to blame the bill’s defeat on other lawmakers “who just want to burn everything down.”
McCarthy’s key allies, including Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La., insisted Friday that they were still working toward both goals — passing annual spending bills and pushing for the most conservative stopgap solution, CR, with border security provisions — in time for a to prevent shutdown.
Shutdowns occur when Congress and the president fail to finalize a series of 12 spending bills or approve a temporary measure to keep government operating. As a result, federal authorities are obliged to stop any measures deemed non-essential. Since 1976, there have been 22 funding gaps, ten of which resulted in workers being laid off.
The last and longest lockdown on record lasted 35 days during the Trump administration between 2018 and 2019, when he insisted on funding the construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border, which Democrats and some Republicans opposed.
Because some agencies already had approved funds, there was a partial closure. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost to the US economy at $3 billion. Although $3 billion is a lot of money, it represented only 0.02% of U.S. economic activity in 2019.
There could be costs for parts of the economy and difficulties for individuals.
Military and law enforcement officers would remain unpaid during the shutdown. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund could be depleted, harming victims of wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.
Clinical trials of new prescription drugs could be delayed. Tens of thousands of children could lose access to health care through Head Start, while environmental and food safety inspections would fall behind.
Food assistance to Americans through the Women, Infants and Children program could be eliminated for nearly 7 million pregnant women, mothers, infants and children.
Brian Gardner, chief Washington strategist at investment bank Stifel, said air traffic controllers largely continued to work without pay during the previous shutdown. He noted that visa and passport applications will not be processed when the government is closed.
The US Travel Industry Association estimates that the travel industry could lose $140 million a day due to a shutdown.
But in a sign of how little damage this 35-day lockdown has done to the overall economy, the S&P 500 stock index rose 11.6% during the latest government shutdown.