Thursday, February 29, 2024

In extremis deal to avoid US government shutdown

There are only a few hours left before the deadline. In both chambers of the United States Congress, a provisional bill was approved to fund the federal government through early March and avoid a partial shutdown.

The agreement reached on Thursday in the House of Representatives and the Senate avoided the shutdown that would have happened on Friday at midnight.

With 314 votes in favor and 108 against, the Lower House gave the green light to the bill that would provide more funds to the government. In this way, more than two-thirds of the votes in favor of this measure were obtained, even though the extension faced many Republican lawmakers, because those who opposed the decision thought that the White House was being helped.

The representative of Arizona, the conservative Eli Crane, questioned the role of the president of the House, also Republican Mike Johnson, for agreeing to this extension with the Democrats, even though, in his memory, he boasted on several occasions of being the most conservative president in history. “Our President Johnson claims to be the most conservative president we’ve ever had. But here we are, presenting this bill without conservative policies,” he said.

In the same vein, Chip Roy, from the red caucus in Texas, also criticized the position adopted by some of his colleagues on this matter. “It doesn’t matter who sits in the speaker’s chair of the House of Representatives or who holds the majority; we keep doing the same stupid things,” he said.

Before the decision was passed by the House of Representatives, it was approved by the Senate with 77 in favor and 18 against. The short-term financing extension establishes two new financing deadlines, March 1 and March 8. But for now, the stopgap measure will give representatives more time to discuss budgets and approve individual bills. appropriations bills for the rest of the year.

What is avoided?

If this extension is not approved, four government departments will be particularly affected, as explained by Voice of America Laura Rodríguez, vice president of government affairs at the Center for American Progress (CAP). These are as follows: the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy and Water, the Department of Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Housing.

As the possibility of an administrative shutdown approaches within a week, the White House has launched a protocol to prepare all its departments. This shutdown meant hundreds of thousands of public employees were sent home without work or pay, and many government services were temporarily suspended.

“More than 100,000 workers will be left without pay in these four agencies,” said Rodríguez, recalling that “federal workers will be paid once the government reopens, but those contractors’ employees have no such protection.”

This agreement is important because, in the opinion of the director of this think tank, based in Washington, DC, if it does not affect many government agencies, they can plan their long-term projects. If the funds are not available, the federal departments will also have to stop some of their plans. “Agencies cannot plan or carry out important projects without knowing where or if the funds will come from,” lamented Rodríguez, who also serves as Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla.

Rodríguez, who also serves as chief of staff at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, believes Republicans feel pressure to avoid a government shutdown, knowing voters will “blame them” at the polls if that happens, before November 7th, when. presidential elections were held and all members of the Lower House and a third of the Senate were elected.

On the other hand, political analyst Fernando Godo, who has a more conservative tendency, believes that the Republicans should continue to pressure the Democrats to “express their voice and their strength” in Congress. in the United States.

“Even if an agreement was reached at the last minute, it is clear that the Republicans have an important role in both chambers, especially in the House of Representatives. They should take advantage of this situation as a strategy for the election. , because a lot is at stake,” commented the expert, who has worked on several Republican campaigns in South Florida.

The president of the House of Representatives announced in early January that a bipartisan agreement had been reached to approve the 2024 fiscal budget, but the problem was that there was not enough time to process it. “We need a little more time,” he said.

Although the majority leader of the Senate, Democrat Chuck Schumer, celebrated the fact that he reached an understanding with the Republicans, his number two, Dick Durbin, regretted that the “issues that are important to us” not answered. in these negotiations.

Fernando Godo, the analyst consulted by VOA, also agreed with this position until he defended the idea that these situations should lead to bipartisan agreements that go beyond budgets. “We are in a very dangerous situation in the country, in the economy, and in the management of migration; this is a good opportunity to address these problems,” he concluded.

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World Nation News Desk
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