April 24, 2024

The deal to avoid the government shutdown appears to have stalled due to the policy demands of the Republican Party

Congress has until Friday evening to figure out how to expand federal finances to avoid a partial government shutdown. Lawmakers will start the week under immense time pressure after negotiations between House and Senate leaders slowed this weekend over disagreements over Republican policy demands.

About 20 percent of the federal government will close on March 2 without action. A week later a deadline looms for the remaining 80 percent.

Even a partial shutdown would strain federal food assistance programs — including WIC, an emergency nutrition program for women, infants and children that is already facing a budget shortfall. Air traffic controllers would continue to work, but would remain unpaid. Federal housing vouchers, which support 5 million families, could be temporarily in jeopardy. Government scientists would stop detecting and studying animal-borne diseases.

“The stakes couldn’t actually be higher. A breastfeeding mother knows all too well the feeling of how hungry you get. The sound of a newborn crying because they don’t have enough formula is a sound all parents know,” said Allison Johnson, campaign director for advocacy group ParentsTogether. “It’s quite distressing to think that this could happen across the board.”

The second government shutdown deadline, March 9, would impact the Departments of Defense and State, border security operations, the Justice Department and FBI, workplace safety regulators and national health officials.

That means the likelihood of a climatic showdown at the Capitol is increasing: President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address on March 7, while lawmakers may still be locked in on a plan to fund the government.

The current federal budget year began on October 1, but so far Congress has had to fund government operations through a series of short-term measures that simply keep programs running on last year’s budget, rather than through new legislation that sets new spending levels.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed in January to spend $1.7 trillion this year on so-called discretionary programs, and later agreed on how much money each would spend. The broad sector of government should spend money, but they have not yet been able to agree on specific spending legislation.

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate had hoped to release text for legislation Sunday evening that would address the agencies whose funding will expire first, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the fragile discuss conversations.

But that plan failed to materialize. The Republican party in the House of Representatives, whose narrow majority is already worried about spending, may now be even less enthusiastic about the possible deal: Johnson said in a telephone call with his Republican conference on Friday evening that the legislation on which his chamber is discussing with Schumer had negotiated many conservative “singles and doubles” for policy provisions, but no “home runs or grand slams.”

In a letter to senators Sunday, Schumer said Republicans in the House of Representatives “need more time to get their act together” before they can agree to spending bills.

“Unfortunately, extreme Republicans in the House of Representatives have shown that they are better at causing chaos than passing legislation,” Schumer wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post. “It is my sincere hope that, in the face of a disruptive shutdown that would harm our economy and make American families less safe, Speaker Johnson will rise to once again confront the extremists in his caucus and do the right thing.” to do.’

The archconservative House Freedom Caucus has pushed the speaker to demand either more cuts or specific policy provisions already passed by the House that roll back key components of Biden’s legislative victories or executive orders.

The Freedom Caucus has also urged Johnson to be prepared to force a government shutdown if he does not win cuts or policymakers.

More pro-government Republican lawmakers have rejected this approach, worrying that their party will bear the political consequences of a shutdown in this fall’s elections, as the Republican Party looks to hold on to its narrow majority in the House and the Senate and overthrow the White House.

Democrats have been more than happy to make the same case.

“If this government shuts down and people don’t get their Social Security checks, their retirement checks and people get laid off, they’re going to have this all laid at the Republican Party’s doorstep. And we are not going to back down from that one piece,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (DS.C.) said on MSNBC on Saturday.

(However, Social Security checks would continue if the government were to close its doors, because the program is not funded through annual appropriations bills.)

On Tuesday, the Freedom Caucus wrote to Johnson with a list of 21 demands, including policies to eliminate Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ salary, block key components of Biden’s climate agenda and cut funding to the World Health Organization and several U.N. aid agencies Close.

“The reality of poison pills is that once they go in, in a single credit cycle, they can’t come out in the next cycle,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the left-wing consumer rights group Public Citizen, which has put lawmakers under pressured to reject any added policy language. “And so you’re not only signing off on this moment on this subject, but you’re almost certainly signing off on it for a very long time.”

Members of the Freedom Caucus say that without the riders, they would prefer Congress to pass a year-long resolution, which would lead to automatic across-the-board cuts that would take effect in May.

These cuts, called sequestration, affect every domestic federal program – except Social Security, Medicare and veterans programs and debt payments – would face cuts of 7 to 10 percent. The speaker should use that threat, Freedom Caucus members argue, to force sharper Democrats’ cuts in appropriations bills.

“It sounds like we’re not going to fight for significant policy victories,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told The Washington Post on Friday. “Once again, the Democrats know that if you don’t risk a government shutdown, they will just say no to anything you want to do, and then we will lose again because we are not willing to go to the US. the mat to actually fight for everything.

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