Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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The US government is on the verge of a complete shutdown

The United States government is on the verge of another shutdown, with Congress poised to miss Saturday’s midnight deadline to fund federal agencies, according to BBC.

This is the fourth government shutdown in the last ten years, yet it has the potential to significantly impact the country, from air travel to national parks and marriage licences.

Most government employees would leave their jobs without pay, and critical nutrition programmes would be halted.

The fact that Republicans control the House of Representatives with a slim majority and Democrats control the Senate with one seat means that spending bills to keep the government open require the support of both parties to get through both chambers to President Joe Biden’s desk.

A faction of right-wing lawmakers has suspended negotiations in the lower house of Congress demanding significant spending cuts, including an end to US funding for the war in Ukraine.

Donald Trump’s support has helped derail efforts by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to pass legislation needed to break the deadlock in the House of Representatives.

McCarthy also refused to pass a short-term funding bill making its way through the Senate. The bill, which includes $6 billion for Ukraine and $6 billion for disaster relief, is a last-ditch effort to avert a prolonged government shutdown. Both parties in the upper chamber appear to have expressed strong support.

On Friday, the House Republicans’ proposal was rejected by 21 party members and was not accepted.

In a closed-door meeting, McCarthy said Republicans would have to choose between the House bill or the Senate version or they could be accused of the shutdown.

However, dissenting lawmakers claimed they would only agree to a long-term spending bill tailored to their priorities.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, criticised McCarthy for putting forward “really radical” proposals that failed to pass through both chambers. The White House backed Schumer’s calls for the House to support his spending bill.

The path forward to fund the government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support – House Republicans just need to take it.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated:

“The failure of House Republicans to act responsibly would hurt American families and cause economic headwinds that could undermine the progress we’re making.”

The government shutdown comes amid Congress’ failure to approve about 30 per cent of the federal budget it must adopt before the start of each fiscal year on October 1.

That means hundreds of thousands of federal employees, excluding those deemed “vital,” will lose their jobs on Monday. Many of those employees live from paycheck to paycheck, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

More than 1.4 million active-duty military personnel and tens of thousands of air traffic controllers will work for free.

The shutdown will also affect the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food assistance to 7 million pregnant women and new mothers.

Museums, national parks, research centres and community health centres overseen or funded by the federal government will likely suspend operations during the shutdown.

The last government shutdown under Trump in 2019 lasted a record 34 days. It resulted in a loss of $11 billion in economic output, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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