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Congress faces a government shutdown if a spending deal isn’t reached this week

Congress faces a government shutdown if a spending deal isn't reached this week


Congress faces a government shutdown if a spending deal isn’t reached this week

Nicholas Wu

Christal Hayes
Rudy Giuliani hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19Rudy Giuliani was admitted Georgetown University Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19.WASHINGTON – The federal government might be heading for a shutdown at the end of the week if Congress can’t agree on a bill to fund the government this week. Seeking to avoid tough decisions on government funding until after the election, Congress punted a key government funding deadline until Friday after passing a bill to keep the government funded at current levels in late September.Lawmakers have been negotiating a comprehensive spending bill to fund the government through the next fiscal year, but it might not be ready by the end of this week as Republicans and Democrats resolve their remaining disagreements.Rather than passing a comprehensive spending bill this week, however, lawmakers are “likely” to punt the deadline one week further by voting on a one-week extension of government funding, according to a senior Democratic aide speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the negotiations. What are Congress’ options?Congress has several legislative options to avoid a government shutdown. They could pass what is known as a “continuing resolution,” where Congress opts to fund the government at current levels until a certain date, kicking more difficult decisions down the line. It is possible Congress could come to an agreement on a comprehensive funding bill by the end of the week, but with the House scheduled to leave after Thursday and lawmakers indicating work still remains on a spending bill, it is a less likely outcome. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters Thursday he was frustrated by the pace of negotiations, calling it “ridiculous” they had not brought a bill to the floor yet. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who had told reporters earlier in the week he was optimistic about finalizing a COVID-19 relief deal and a government spending bill, said Friday, “unfortunately, things are not moving as rapidly as I think they ought to.”Hoyer advised House members to keep their schedules “flexible.” What if the government shuts down? Government shutdowns have not exactly been rare under President Donald Trump. Over his four years in office, the federal government shut down three times — including the longest-ever shutdown in modern U.S. history. That shutdown, from Dec. 2018 to Jan. 2019, was 35 days long. It stemmed from a standoff between Congress and the White House over funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border and forced about 800,000 federal government workers to go on furlough or without pay.If Congress doesn’t act by Friday, thousands of government workers deemed not essential would again be furloughed or forced to work without pay until the shutdown ends. A shutdown would likely have ripple effects, affecting everything from air travel to government health agencies handling the coronavirus pandemic. National parks may close, airport operations could slow as workers are furloughed and it could impact the economy, which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated tax revenue was down $2 billion in 2019 because the IRS had halted some operations during the shutdown.  Could COVID-19 stimulus be part of a spending deal? Congress and the White House have been at an impasse over another coronavirus stimulus package for months but last week, key lawmakers appeared to make concessions in hopes a bill could pass before both chambers go home for the holidays. Leaders in the House and Senate have restarted discussions and say the best chance in passing any relief is by adding it to the annual spending bill. Coronavirus relief talks restart: Competing COVID-19 relief proposals introduced as Congress sprints to pass aidMore: Competing COVID-19 relief proposals introduced as Congress sprints to pass aidBut that would have to happen quickly as the House will leave town at the end of the week. Both sides have yet to fully agree on a spending deal. Some of the biggest sticking points, according to a Democratic aide, revolve around immigration, as they have in years past – with funding for a wall along the southern border and immigrant detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement – at the center of the dispute. Another hurdle is adding potential language on police reform in the bill after a summer of protests over the killings of unarmed Black individuals, including George Floyd in Minneapolis.Both sides would then have to come to an agreement on COVID-19 relief. The biggest hurdles in coming to an agreement revolve around funds for state and local governments, a key item Democrats have insisted on, and liability protections for businesses, something Republicans have mandated be in any relief bill. While there is optimism growing on passing relief, Democrats and Republicans will have to quickly come to a deal so both chambers can pass a bill before Friday’s deadline. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., remained optimistic last week.”We have the time to do it,” she said Friday. “We are going to keep government open.”She added that Congress has the momentum to quickly agree on both a government spending deal and a COVID-19 relief package.”We’ll take the time we need and we must get it done and we must get it done before we leave. We cannot leave without it,” she said.How even a partial government shutdown could affect youWith the partial government shutdown stretching into 2019, here’s what you need to know about the effects.

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