WASHINGTON — The U.S. government was two days away from a partial shutdown Friday after a handful of House Republicans declined to back a bipartisan relief bill aimed at giving lawmakers more time to negotiate a full-year deal.
The National Park Service will close, the Securities and Exchange Commission will suspend most of its regulatory activities, and hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed starting at 12:01 a.m. ET (04:01 GMT on Sunday) if Congress does not continues. a spending package that could be signed into law by President Joe Biden before then.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives was scheduled to hold a vote this afternoon on a partisan 30-day funding measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR, which is expected to fail amid strong opposition from Democrats and a handful of hardline conservatives.
The measure would cut spending to an annualized level of $1.47 trillion by 2022, impose immigration and border security restrictions and establish a bipartisan commission to study U.S. debt.
On Friday morning, Democrats warned that the Republican CR would mean a 30% cut in benefits for poor women and children, and a 57% cut in funding for fighting wildfires. It would increase spending on defense and homeland security.
Hardliners who oppose the measure want Congress to instead move forward with full spending legislation for the 2024 fiscal year.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy succeeded late Thursday in passing three of four bills that would fund four federal agencies. Written to meet hardline conservative demands, the bills have no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, although even if they become law they would not prevent a partial shutdown because they do not finance the entire government.
Republican hardliners have said they will not accept a Senate bill to fund the government through Nov. 17. This bill has received broad bipartisan support, including that of Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, the top Republican.
The shutdown would be the fourth in a decade and comes just four months after a similar standoff left the federal government defaulting within days of defaulting on its more than $31 trillion in debt. The repeated misconduct has raised concerns on Wall Street, where ratings agency Moody’s has warned it could damage the country’s credit rating.
McCarthy and Biden, a Democrat, agreed in June to a deal that would have funded the government with $1.59 trillion in discretionary spending in the 2024 fiscal year, but Republican hardliners in the House of Representatives are demanding another $120 billion in cuts plus stricter legislation that would stop the flow of immigrants. at the US border with Mexico.
The current battle centers on a relatively small portion of this fiscal year’s $6.4 trillion U.S. budget. Lawmakers are not considering cuts to popular benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Several hardliners have threatened to oust McCarthy from his leadership role if he passes a spending bill that requires Democratic votes, an outcome that is all but guaranteed given that any successful House bill must also pass the Senate, controlled by Democrats 51 -49.
Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s likely 2024 opponent, has used social media to push his allies in Congress into a shutdown.
Republicans in the House of Representatives expressed exasperation late Thursday with their hardline colleagues, who have obstructed the process at almost every turn.
“They can’t start a fire, call the fire department, turn off the water supply and then blame them for not putting out the fire,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw told Reuters. “That’s kind of what’s happening now.”
Rep. Mike Garcia, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, described himself as “frustrated.”
“We are not in a good position going into a negotiation with the Senate,” he told Reuters.
Rep. Richard Neal, the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, described the appropriations process as “the worst in the 35 years I’ve been here.”
Moderate Republicans are pushing for a vote on their own short-term spending measure, which also would likely not pass the Senate if it includes expected tough border measures that Democrats do not support.
“We are in a mess,” Rep. Marc Molinaro, a moderate Republican, said in a statement Wednesday, referring to the situation at the border. “In a bipartisan government, our solution must be bipartisan.”
A shutdown will also delay the release of crucial economic data, which could lead to volatility in financial markets, and delay the date when retirees learn how much their Social Security benefits will increase next year. Social security benefits themselves would continue.