Congress in Last-Minute Scramble to Avert Government Shutdown Amidst Political Infighting

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Congress in Last-Minute Scramble to Avert Government Shutdown Amidst Political Infighting

  • In a last-minute scramble to avert a government shutdown, the U.S. Congress is facing significant challenges as they return to work. The main issue is infighting among the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which has put the country on the brink of its fourth partial government shutdown in a decade. As of the October 1st start of the fiscal year, lawmakers have been unable to pass legislation to keep the government funded.

    On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Democratic-controlled Senate is working on advancing a stopgap funding bill, but a final vote might not occur for several days. If both chambers fail to send a spending bill to President Joe Biden by 12:01 a.m. (0401 GMT) on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will face a lack of funding to perform their jobs.

    Federal agencies have already made contingency plans detailing essential services like airport screening and border patrols, along with services that would be halted, such as scientific research and nutrition aid to millions of disadvantaged mothers. Most of the government's 4 million-plus employees would not receive their pay, whether they continue working or not.

    The current standoff follows recent tensions when Congress brought the federal government to the brink of defaulting on its $31.4 trillion debt, which has raised concerns on Wall Street about potential damage to U.S. creditworthiness.

    Traditionally, Congress passes stopgap spending bills to extend the deadline for negotiating detailed funding legislation for federal programs. However, this year, a group of Republicans has blocked House action as they push for stricter immigration policies and lower spending levels than those agreed upon during the debt-ceiling standoff in the spring.

    On Friday, 21 Republicans joined Democrats to defeat legislation reflecting these demands, opting instead to focus on passing comprehensive spending bills for the entire fiscal year, even if it means a near-term government shutdown. This decision frustrated other Republicans, who believed it was a missed opportunity to advance conservative policies.

    House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hinted at the possibility of relying on Democratic support to pass a stopgap bill to continue funding at current levels, though this move could challenge his leadership, particularly from hardliners within his party.

    In the Senate, a procedural vote to extend government funding through November 17 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (1700 GMT). Although this enjoys broad support from both Republicans and Democrats, the Senate's procedural hurdles could delay the final passage vote until Tuesday. Additionally, resolving differences between the two chambers, such as House opposition to $6 billion in Ukraine aid included in the Senate bill, could present further challenges in reaching a resolution. 




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