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House, Senate standoff raises chances of US government shutdown

Published Sep 27, 2023 06:03AM ET Updated Sep 28, 2023 12:41AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to members of the media as the deadline to avert a government shutdown approaches on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis
 
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By Moira Warburton and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday rejected a stopgap funding bill advancing in the Senate, bringing Washington closer to its fourth partial shutdown of the U.S. government in a decade with just four days to go.

That would lead to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers and the suspension of a wide range of government services, from economic data releases to nutrition benefits, until Congress manages to pass a funding bill that President Joe Biden, a Democrat, would sign into law.

The Senate plan, which advanced on a wide bipartisan margin on Tuesday, would fund the government through Nov. 17, giving lawmakers more time to agree on funding levels for the full fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said the Senate would hold the next procedural vote on its bill on Thursday, unless senators can reach an agreement that would allow them to vote sooner.

McCarthy's House of Representatives was focusing its efforts on trying to agree on more of the 12 separate full-year funding bills, of which they have so far passed one.

"I don't see the support in the House" for the Senate plan, McCarthy said, though the bill has the support of Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The House was expected to vote late into the night on amendments to specific funding bills, though even if all four of those bills were to be signed into law by Saturday, on their own they would not be enough to prevent a partial government shutdown.

Weeks ago, Biden urged Congress to pass a short-term extension of fiscal 2023 spending, along with emergency aid to help state and local governments cope with natural disasters and help Ukraine in its war against Russia. He also sought new border security funding.

"If we have a government shutdown, a lot of vital work and science and health could be impacted, from cancer research to food safety," Biden said on Wednesday. "So the American people need our Republican friends in the House of Representatives to do their jobs: Fund the government."

The standoff has begun to attract the attention of ratings agencies, with both Moody's (NYSE:MCO) and Fitch warning it could damage the federal government's credit-worthiness.

House Republicans want much tougher legislation that would stop the flow of immigrants at the U.S. southern border with Mexico and deeper spending cuts than were enacted in June.

CALL FOR BIPARTISANSHIP

Worries of a shutdown are already spreading outside of Washington. In Atlanta, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum moved up its planned Sunday festivities celebrating the former president's 99th birthday to Saturday before federal funds could be frozen at midnight, according to local media.

Executive branch agencies were already making preparations for determining which federal workers would remain on the job -- without pay until the government is funded -- and which ones will be furloughed. Similar exercises were occurring in Congress as well, where thousands of legislative aides and other support workers are employed.

"Speaker McCarthy, the only way - the only way - out of a shutdown is bipartisanship," Schumer said in a speech to the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposed a shutdown.

"The Border Patrol and ICE agencies have to continue to work for nothing" during a shutdown, the Republican lawmaker told reporters on Wednesday, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). McConnell added that a solution is not "more likely to happen in the shutdown than with the government open."

McCarthy is facing threats from hardline members of his own party who rejected a deal he negotiated with Biden in May for $1.59 trillion in discretionary spending in fiscal 2024 and approved in June, demanding instead another $120 billion in cuts.

A handful of the hardliners have also threatened to oust McCarthy from his leadership role if he passes a spending bill that requires any Democratic votes to pass.

McCarthy said House Republicans would probably bring their own stopgap measure to the floor on Friday.

It was unclear whether there will be the votes in the House to pass it.

The standoff comes four months after Washington flirted with defaulting on the nation's more than $31 trillion in debt, a move that would have rocked financial markets worldwide.

Another downgrade of the U.S. credit rating could push borrowing costs - and the nation's debt - even higher.

Hardline Republicans, including Donald Trump, frontrunner for the party's 2024 presidential nomination, have dismissed the risks of a shutdown and in some cases actively pushed for one.

"My advice is buckle up -- there's turbulence ahead," Representative Andy Ogles told reporters after attending a closed-door meeting of fellow Republicans.

House, Senate standoff raises chances of US government shutdown
 

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Comments (6)
Derick Lim
Derick Lim Sep 28, 2023 7:04AM ET
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Hooray....a shut down will enable the government staffs to join the UAW strike workers hanging around doing nothing
Shrivithal Joshi
Shrivithal Joshi Sep 27, 2023 10:45PM ET
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do shutdown and enjoy holidays for ever
marki bigjohnson
marki bigjohnson Sep 27, 2023 3:16PM ET
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Shut this garbage corrupt country down permanently. keep it shut till dirty Biden is voted out
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 27, 2023 3:16PM ET
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Isn't it time to brush your tooth?
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Sep 27, 2023 3:16PM ET
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Brad-hominem!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 27, 2023 3:16PM ET
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Hey! No need to get personal.
Mark Jannetty
Mark Jannetty Sep 27, 2023 2:16PM ET
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not cuts., shut it down
Elezabeth Thomas
Elezabeth Thomas Sep 27, 2023 11:47AM ET
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Which is worse? Rampant Corruption, Rampant Crime, Rampant Inflation, Continuous Financial Crises after Crises, Illegal Invasion, Domestic and Foreign Terrorism or SHUT. IT. DOWN!
marki bigjohnson
marki bigjohnson Sep 27, 2023 11:47AM ET
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It's so corrupt that it can't be salvaged. just shut it down for 5 years to clear the garbage
Otis Grant
Otis Grant Sep 27, 2023 6:48AM ET
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Hopefully enough Republicans act to cut out the house freedom cult and mccarthy if necessary. Enough of these traitor trump worshipers trying to destroy the government out of spite
Carl Tom
Carl Tom Sep 27, 2023 6:48AM ET
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RepiglaCONS RULE and don't forget it
 
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