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The U.S. government is heading toward a shutdown starting next weekend as lawmakers become increasingly unlikely to reach a budget deal amid stiff opposition from the right wing of the Republican Party.
Lawmakers have just a week to come up with a spending plan that will make it through both houses of Congress — no easy task since Republicans control the House of Representatives by a slim majority and Democrats hold the Senate by a similarly razor-thin margin.
If there is no deal by midnight next Saturday, millions of federal workers will be furloughed, causing all but “essential” government operations to grind to a halt.
A prolonged shutdown could have far-reaching effects across the U.S. economy, weakening business and consumer confidence amid already fears that a recession is imminent.
The latest budget dispute stems from a strong disagreement within the Republican Party over taxes and spending, including whether to approve a large additional aid package for Ukraine.
Republican infighting is also threatening the leadership of Kevin McCarthy, the California lawmaker who became House speaker in a record-breaking 15th ballot in January.
McCarthy defied critics when he negotiated an agreement in May that averted an unprecedented default on the U.S. national debt. But now the speaker faces a greater challenge as he struggles to please the right flank of his own party, which has torpedoed several of his attempts to continue funding the government in recent days.
The right wing of the House Republican conference was emboldened by former President Donald Trump, who cheered the possibility of a shutdown and wrote on his social media platform Truth Social: “Republicans in Congress can and must all aspects of arming Crooked Joe Biden withdraw from funding.” Government . . . They failed at the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the wallet and defend the country!”
Trump presided over two government shutdowns during his time in the White House. The second case, which arose from a dispute over his plans to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, lasted 35 days, making it the longest lockdown in US history.
Even if McCarthy is able to meet the demands of his most right-wing members, any deal passed by the House must also be signed by the Democratic-controlled Senate – and Republican hardliners have shown no willingness to support a bipartisan compromise.
Several, including Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, have suggested that if McCarthy were to push through a bipartisan deal, he would not only reject the measure but also file a “motion to repeal,” or a vote of no confidence, in the speaker in order to do so try to remove him from his post.
The White House has insisted that funding the government is the responsibility of Congress and blamed House Republicans for the dysfunction. But the Biden administration has also begun preparing for a likely shutdown, with the Office of Management and Budget working with federal agencies to develop contingency plans.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday that Congress needs to do its job.
“The best plan is for House Republicans to stop playing partisan politics and not do this to harm Americans across the country.”
Source : www.ft.com