Washington, Oct 1 (IANS) As the US government is practically shutting down midnight Saturday, the Congress is now alternately exploring the possibilities of reopening the government to fund federal agencies if and when the shutdown occurs.
The New York Times in a dispatch on Saturday said that if the government shuts down tonight, which in all probability it will as Congress does not want to either admit or pass the senate’s stop gap measure to release $12 billion — $6 billion for Ukraine and an equal $6 billion for disaster relief work, it has no options to explore alternatives to quickly reopen the government treasury.
Congress will have to pass a spending patch to temporarily reopen while it works on the annual spending bills to fund federal agencies through the next fiscal year. Obviously, both approaches would need bipartisan support since the Senate and White House are controlled by Democrats, and the House by Republicans.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has some hard arithmetics in front of him to doto achieve that within his tight House majority. Or, he can try to pass a bill with Democrats, and risk his speakership, a double edged sword as far his position on shut down and holding onto his chair is concerned.
How did the government get into this messy situation in the first place?
The US government is careening toward a shutdown at midnight on Saturday because the Republican controlled Congress (222-213) has been unsuccessful in passing any of the 12 yearlong spending bills that funds the federal government, the Times said adding, the Congress is still stuck on the stopgap measure to keep funding flowing while lawmakers need to pass those annual spending bills.
The stopgap measure came in the form of a Continuing Resolution from the senate majority leader Chuck Schummer (D-NY), who wanted the house to accept a temporary measure to keep the government funded till October 31 to the tune of a minimum of $6 billion. But that found no support from Speaker McCarthy as he was unable to muster a majority for the admission of the motion with a section of hardliners led by Gaetz threatening to move a resolution to oust the speaker.
Why is the federal government all but certain to shutdown?
Under the Constitution, Congress controls the purse strings and uses its powers by passing legislation each year to fund the government. There are 12 so-called appropriations bills, which run from October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, until midnight the following September 30, 2024.
Congress failed this year to enact any of those measures, which has to be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the president.
Without an ad hoc measure to temporarily fund the federal agencies, even as the two chambers debate to pass legislation, any resolution, any differences between the bills and congress fails to send the measures to President Biden, the government will shut down.
What is the big disagreement over spending?
In the runup to the situation leading to the shutdown while avoiding a default on federal debt thatcrossed $33 trillion, Speaker McCarthy and President Biden agreed to cap federal spending for the next two years. The agreement specified that their deal would hold, instituting a requirement that Congress pass each individual spending bill on its own, rather than combining them all into a single passage bill law makers tried to do.
The agreement was passed on a bipartisan basis; but with the hard right opposing, McCarthy had to rely on Democratic votes to push it through the House. Right-wing lawmakers were livid about the deal, as it allowed far too much spending to their wishes, they wanted to renege on the funding levels agreed to in it. They wanted even deeper cuts that the Senate and White House will almost certainly reject.
What did Congress do to avert a shutdown?
The Senate moved a vote as early as this weekend on a bipartisan spending patch, known as a “continuing resolution”, or “C.R.”, that would keep the government open through November 17 while providing $6 billion for aid to Ukraine and $6 billion for natural disaster relief in the US.
But McCarthy did not have the votes to pass that bill as a group of hard-right Republicans balked at continuing spending at current levels — even if was temporary — while others opposed allowing even a stopgap bill to pass. The logjam is still unresolved and is not likely to be, media reports said.
McCarthy could have most likely passed the Senate plan with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats. But some right-wing Republicansvowed to remove him from his post if he did so, the Times said.