The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate plan to take sharply divergent paths on Tuesday in a high-stakes spending battle, just five days before a deadline that could force shutting down some areas of the government for the fourth time in a decade.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is set to vote on a stopgap funding bill with bipartisan support to keep the federal government running after the current money runs out by midnight Saturday, giving negotiators more time to reach approval of expenditure figures for the whole year.
Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, seeking to fend off a rebellion among the most hawkish members of his own caucus, will move forward with four full-year spending bills featuring conservatives. priority.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed, and a wide range of services, from the release of economic data to nutrition benefits, will be suspended starting Sunday if the two sides cannot reach a consensus.
Since 1981, Congress has shut down the government 14 times, although most of the shutdowns lasted only a day or two. Although disruptive, they did not have a major impact on the world’s largest economy.
However, Moody’s warned on Monday that a partial shutdown this time would have a negative impact on the US government’s AAA credit rating, as it highlights how political polarization is worsening the country’s fiscal situation.
Democratic President Joe Biden and McCarthy tried to avoid a gridlock this year when they agreed in May, at the end of a standoff over the federal debt ceiling, to $1.59 trillion in discretionary spending for the fiscal year, which starts on January 1.
McCarthy’s right-wing lawmakers have since rejected the figure, demanding $120 billion in cuts, although more moderate members of their party, including top Republicans in the Senate, have expressed support for the agreed-upon plan.
This represents only a fraction of the total US budget, which will reach $6.4 trillion this fiscal year. Lawmakers are not considering cuts to popular benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare, which are expected to grow significantly as the population ages.
Republicans control the House by a slim 221-212 majority and have few votes to spare, largely because some hardline Republicans have threatened to remove McCarthy from the leadership if he relies on Democratic votes to pass the law.
Biden himself asked House Republicans to honor the agreement with McCarthy.
“Just a few months ago, the Speaker of the House and I agreed on the level of government spending,” Biden said. “Now, a small group of hardline House Republicans don’t want to honor that deal, and everyone in America could face paying a price for it.”
Republican Rep. Ralph Norman, a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, said Monday that he is “100%” certain that Congress cannot keep the government open.