Hardline Republicans in the US House on Friday rejected a bill proposed by their leader to temporarily fund the government, making it all but certain that federal agencies will partially shut down beginning on Sunday.
The House of Representatives rejected in a 232-198 vote a measure to fund the government for 30 days to give lawmakers more time to negotiate. That bill would have cut spending and imposed immigration and border security restrictions, Republican priorities that had little chance of passing the Democratic-majority Senate.
The Senate, meanwhile, on a broad bipartisan basis has been advancing a similar bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, to fund the government through November 17.
“It’s not the end yet; I’ve got other ideas,” Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters following the defeat of a bill he had backed.
He did not immediately say what those ideas were.
The National Park Service will close, the Securities and Exchange Commission will suspend most of its regulatory activities, and disrupt pay to up to four million federal workers beginning at 12:01am ET on Sunday (7:01am in Cyprus) if Congress does not pass a spending package that can be signed into law by President Joe Biden before then.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday that a government shutdown would “”undermine” US economic progress by idling key programs for small businesses and children, and could delay major infrastructure improvements.
The shutdown would be the fourth in a decade and comes just four months after a similar standoff brought the federal government within days of defaulting on its $31 trillion-plus in debt. The repeated brinkmanship has raised worries on Wall Street, where the Moody’s ratings agency has warned it could damage the nation’s creditworthiness.
Biden warned that a shutdown could take a heavy toll on the armed forces.
“We can’t be playing politics while our troops stand in the breach. It’s an absolute dereliction of duty,” Biden, a Democrat, said at a ceremony for top US general Mark Milley’s retirement.
McCarthy had hoped the Republicans CR’s border provisions would have pressured at least nine hardline holdouts into backing the measure – and stepping back from the brink of a shutdown.
Democrats, meanwhile had warned that the Republican CR would mean a 30 per cent spending cut in benefits for poor women and children and a 57 per cent cut in resources for battling wildfires. It would increase spending for defense and homeland security.
McCarthy succeeded in passing three of four bills late on Thursday that would fund four federal agencies. The bills were written to accommodate hardline conservative demands and stand no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, though even if they became law, they would not avert a partial shutdown because they do not fund the full government.
McCarthy and Biden in June agreed to a deal that would have funded the government with discretionary spending at $1.59 trillion in fiscal 2024, but House Republican hardliners are demanding another $120 billion in cuts plus tougher legislation that would stop the flow of immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.
A shutdown would delay vital economic data releases, which could trigger financial market volatility, and delay the date that retirees learn how much their Social Security payments will rise next year. Social Security payments themselves would continue.
“We’re in the middle of a Republican civil war that has been going on for months, and now threatens a catastrophic government shutdown,” top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries told reporters following the vote.
The current fight focuses on a relatively small slice of the $6.4 trillion US budget for this fiscal year. 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 any Democratic votes to pass, an outcome almost guaranteed given that any successful House bill must also pass the Senate, controlled by Democrats 51-49.
Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s likely election opponent in 2024, has taken to social media to push his congressional allies toward a shutdown.
House Republicans expressed annoyance late Thursday with their hardline colleagues, who have stymied the process at almost every turn.
“They can’t set a fire, call the fire department, turn off their water supply and then blame them for not putting out the fire,” Representative Dan Crenshaw told Reuters. “That’s kind of what’s happening right now.”
Representative Richard Neal, the ranking 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.”