Government shutdown looms as House and Senate forward competing bills. What are their proposals and who will be affected if the government shuts down?
Government will shutdown tomorrow night without spending plan from Congress
As of this writing, just over a day remains for Congress to pass a funding bill by the end of the federal fiscal year at 12:01 AM ET on Sunday. There’s still no end in sight to the budget impasse that could cause a shutdown of the federal government. This would be the fourth such shutdown in the last decade.
Although talks are continuing, the prospects for reaching an agreement in time are dim. Unlike past shutdowns, the key fight isn’t so much between Democrats and Republicans, but between Republican and Republicans.
The so-called Freedom Caucus, a small group of about 20 Republican House members, is essentially holding Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) hostage, with a threat to file a motion to remove McCarthy from the speakership if he doesn’t acquiesce to their demands for deep budget cuts. They’ve also threated to file the motion if McCarthy and other Republicans join House Democrats in passing a bipartisan spending bill.
Competing bills and math
The Senate is already moving ahead with a bipartisan bill that will fund the government until Nov. 17, 2023. The Senate bill would fund the government roughly along the lines agreed to by Democrats and Republicans earlier this summer to avert a debt default. It also includes about $6 billion extra for disaster relief and $6 billion more in aid for Ukraine. The Senate voted 76-22 to open debate on this bill with bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, not satisfied with the deep budget cuts earlier this year, House Republicans are pushing their own bill which includes steep cuts to the social safety net. Under their plan:
- 300,000 households, including 20,000 veterans, would lose housing support.
- Pell Grants would be cut for 6.6 million students.
- 60,000 seniors would lose help from services like Meals on Wheels.
- 2.1 million women would be waitlisted for WIC, a program that supplements nutrition for pregnant women or women who need money to feed themselves and their children.
- schools in poverty-stricken areas would see 80% of their budgets cut.
- home heating assistance would be cut by 70% as we head into winter.
- The over-$770 billion Pentagon budget would not be cut by a single penny.
This proposal initially won approval from some Freedom Caucus members. However a hardline faction within the hardline faction was not satisfied even with these cuts and refused to support the bill. As a result, House Republicans failed to pass their own bill by a 232-198 vote.
What will be effected if the government shuts down?
- About 4 million federal workers (not including postal workers and members of Congress) will go without pay for the duration.
- The 7 million women, infants and children who rely on WIC for food assistance will cease to receive that help when contingency funds dry up in a few days.
- Disaster-hit areas could also see a halt in financial assistance from FEMA.
- Members of the military will not be paid.
- Workers at the FAA will not be paid and training for new air-traffic controllers will cease, likely leading to staffing shortages and delays and disruptions in air travel.
- Anyone who needs to apply for any form of federal assistance will not be able to do so.
- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the US Postal Service will continue to function as normal. However, if the shutdown stretches on for a couple of months, these services (except for the USPS which has its own operating budget) may be affected as well.