As Congress reconvened after their routine summer break, there was nothing to suggest what many Washington insiders and pundits have believed all along: a federal government shutdown will happen. “The questions flying around the Capitol come in two categories. Top of mind are the logistical ones: When will the government shut down? And for how long?” Philip Elliott wrote for TIME.
The critical issue is the passage of a short-term spending bill to stave off the looming government shutdown scheduled for October 1. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, caught in the crossfire of a political maelstrom, finds himself in a most precarious position. According to CNN, during a recent private conference call, the Speaker urged his colleagues to support a short-term spending deal to avert an impending shutdown. He proposed postponing the larger funding fight until later in the fall, a strategy that some view as prudent to ensure the government continues to function.
The House and Senate face substantial differences in their funding proposals, with McCarthy’s prior deal with the White House crumbling under the pressure of demands from the conservative wing of his party. As a result, the two chambers are hundreds of billions of dollars apart, increasing the urgency to find a compromise.
According to NBC News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.) has made clear that he and his fellow Republicans intend to stick to the previous terms of the deal. “The speaker and the president reached an agreement which I supported in connection with raising the debt ceiling to set spending levels for next year,” McConnell said, according to the network. “The House then turned around and passed spending levels that were below that level. Without stating an opinion about that, that’s not going to be replicated in the Senate.”
The White House and senators from both sides of the aisle advocate tying the short-term funding bill to critical provisions such as $24 billion in aid to Ukraine and an additional $16 billion for communities devastated by natural disasters. However, a vocal faction of House conservatives opposes swiftly passing additional aid to Ukraine.
The procedural hurdle of securing a rule vote in the House adds another layer of complexity. Some hard-right conservatives have declared their willingness to block the rule vote for the spending bill if their demands are not met.
McCarthy must decide whether to align with conservative hardliners, risk a head-on collision with the White House, or forge a compromise with Democrats, passing the spending bill by a two-thirds majority. The latter option could jeopardize his standing among the MAGA wing and possibly lead to his being removed as Speaker. “Certainly, I’m willing to shut the government down,” Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall stated. “Whatever it takes to force the issue, to slow down the government spending up here, I’m willing to do it.”
Meanwhile, Reuters said investors have concerns over a possible shutdown, which could have ramifications for the economy heading into the year-end and beyond. A significant portion of government functions could grind to a halt, and Goldman Sachs strategists estimate that such an event could lead to a 0.2% reduction in U.S. economic growth for each week it persists.
A shutdown would represent the fourth in the last ten years, affecting most federal civilian workers. Military institutions could experience severe impacts, but troops and some Defense Department civilians would be required to stay at their posts without receiving pay.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers also could be furloughed without pay, causing disruptions in services ranging from passport applications to national park maintenance. Workers deemed essential would remain on duty without pay, but mail delivery, tax collection, and debt payments would continue. Most Social Security payments would continue, because of automated processes. However, depending on the shutdown’s length, customer service for Social Security claimants and beneficiaries could face significant disruptions.
“Our seniors deserve to be a priority,” Max Richtman, a former staff director at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and president and CEO of the nonprofit National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, wrote in an op-ed. “And they shouldn’t have to worry about their earned benefits because MAGA House members once again are willing the hold the government hostage to their extremist aims.”