The United States is preparing for a government shutdown. When the deadline to approve the budget laws for the fiscal year that begins at midnight from Saturday to Sunday runs out, the situation is deadlocked. There is no agreement between the Senate, with a Democratic majority, and the House of Representatives, dominated by Republicans. But there is not even agreement among the Republicans in the Lower House, where their president, Kevin McCarthy, is hostage to a radical minority that does not even seem willing to approve an extension in spending authorizations. Barring an unlikely last-minute twist, the closure of the Administration’s non-essential services is imminent. The White House has already developed contingency plans to deal with the situation.
The so-called government shutdown means that only public services considered essential can continue to be provided. Around one and a half million federal officials will be suspended from employment and pay or will have to work without pay until the expenses are approved. Some two million military and law enforcement officers will also continue to perform their duties without pay. “If the House does not fulfill its most basic function, if it does not finance the Government by tomorrow, it will have failed all our troops,” said the president, Joe Biden, this Friday at an event with the military. “Our military will continue to fulfill their oath, going to work, policing around the world, keeping our country safe, but they will not be paid. It is a shame. (…) We cannot be playing politics while our troops are in the breach,” he added.
Federal agencies will suspend all actions that are not considered essential, which would jeopardize assistance programs for disadvantaged children, inspections, authorizations, subsidies and all kinds of policies. Monuments, museums and national parks dependent on the Government will close, although some have remnants to remain open for a while or can obtain state financing. The paralysis of the Administration would also prevent the publication of employment and inflation statistics, on which the Federal Reserve largely depends to set interest rates.
The United States Congress is hostage to a radical minority of the Republican Party encouraged by former President Donald Trump. By suspending the debt ceiling, McCarthy agreed with Biden on moderate spending cut levels, which are what should now be realized. But the hardliners, who have already rebelled against the agreement, refuse to comply with it and demand much larger cuts. The Republican majority in the House is 222 to 212 votes, which gives the twenty radicals a blocking position.
This Friday, the speaker proposed a budget extension proposal until October 31 with massive cuts (30% in most agencies, although saving Defense, Veterans or National Security). McCarthy’s proposal included strict border security provisions that would kickstart construction of the wall on the southern border with Mexico, among other measures. Additionally, the package proposed creating a bipartisan debt commission to address the nation’s growing debt burden. But even that has not been enough for the radicals, who rejected it along with the Democrats (by 232 votes to 198), although for opposite reasons. In any case, it had no chance of being approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
The defeat has felt very bad for the majority of the Republican group. New York Congressman Mike Lawler has been blunt against one of the rebel leaders, the one who has been most influential against McCarthy: “There is only one person to blame for any possible government shutdown, and that is Matt Gaetz. He is not a conservative Republican. “He is a charlatan,” he said this Friday outside the Capitol.
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Fiasco for Republicans
The president of the House of Representatives also tried to satisfy his most extreme deputies with the formal opening of an investigation against the president, Joe Biden, as a preliminary step to a possible impeachment trial. The first session of that investigation was held this Thursday and was a fiasco for the Republicans. Even the defendants summoned by them admitted that they had not presented any evidence and do not see any reason for an impeachment at this time.
Trump’s party wants to prosecute Biden for bribery and abuse of power when he was vice president in relation to the businesses of his son, Hunter Biden, but after analyzing thousands of bank records they have not found a single cent that has gone to the now president . The session served to show the loyalty of the Republicans to Trump. When Democrat Greg Casar asked those who believed that both Hunter Biden and Trump should be held accountable if they were convicted, only Democrats did so to raise their hands.
“Today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA extremists,” Biden said Thursday at an event in Tempe, Arizona, referring to the acronym for Make America Great Again, the motto. of Trump. “His extremist agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it,” he added, in a speech intended to insist on the danger to democracy posed by Trump and his followers.
The impeachment and the closure of the Government are the two ways that Republicans, especially the most extreme ones, have to increase the pressure on Biden just over a year before the elections in which the president seeks re-election. 12 appropriation or spending laws are necessary to keep the different departments open normally. The vote on the first proposals has revealed divisions among Republicans on issues such as continued support for Ukraine. Republicans have also spent time approving measures with no future in the Senate and the White House, such as lowering Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s salary to one dollar annually, from the $235,000 he now earns.
The processing of spending laws is long and lengthy and there is no material time for them. The only thing left is that burning nail of the extension, also not very viable. The Senate has its own extension proposal, in this case negotiated between the two groups, Democrats and Republicans. If it were put to a vote in the House of Representatives, it would likely pass with Democratic and moderate Republican support. But if McCarthy gives him a free pass, then the hardliner would demand his head. Perhaps he will ask for it in any case, which could leave a leadership vacuum in the House, since it would not be easy to choose a replacement.
“The failure of House Republicans to act responsibly would harm American families and cause economic headwinds that could undermine the progress we are making,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned this Friday. . “A shutdown would affect many key government functions, from lending to farmers and small businesses to food and labor safety inspections to Head Start programs for children. And it could delay important infrastructure improvements,” she added.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre has declared that “extremist Republicans in the House of Representatives are tripling down their demands to gut programs that millions of working families count on.” “The path forward to fund the Government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support, House Republicans just need to take it,” she added.
The gaps between the approval of budgets and the beginning of the fiscal year began to cause closures of the Administration since Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti argued that government agencies cannot legally operate without having approved financing in a series of opinions issued in 1980. and 1981. Since then, only spending for functions essential to public safety and constitutional obligations is allowed.
Since 1976, there have been 22 interruptions in funding, 10 of which have resulted in workers being laid off. Most of the significant shutdowns have occurred since Bill Clinton’s presidency, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his conservative majority demanded budget cuts. The longest, however, occurred between 2018 and 2019, when then-President Trump and congressional Democrats entered a stalemate over their demand for funding for a wall on the border with Mexico. It lasted 35 days, in the middle of Christmas, but it was only a partial closure, because Congress had approved some appropriations laws for some areas.
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