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US government shutdown more likely as Congressional deadlock continues

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters following a House Republican caucus meeting at the US Capitol on September, 27,2023. (Photo by Getty Images)

Republican US House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has rejected a stopgap funding bill advancing in the Senate, nudging the US government to the brink of its fourth partial shutdown in a decade.

The Senate plan which advanced on a wide bipartisan margin on Tuesday unveiled a stopgap funding measure that would keep the government open through November 17, giving lawmakers more time to agree on funding levels for the full fiscal year beginning October 1.

US lawmakers have until midnight September 30 to reach an agreement on the spending bill, before funding for government services is due to dry up.

 “I don't see the support in the House” for the Senate plan, McCarthy said, though the bill has the support of Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader.

“Delaying action on short-term government funding doesn’t advance the ball on any policy priorities,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, defending the short-term solution in a speech on Tuesday.

“Shutting the government down over a domestic government dispute doesn’t strengthen anyone’s political position. It just puts important progress on ice, and it leaves millions of Americans on edge,” the senator said.

McCarthy, meanwhile, reiterated on Wednesday that he plans to have the House take up a continuing resolution on Friday, ahead of the hard deadline Saturday night to approve the new funding. If the new funding is not approved, the government will shut down while the House considers its full-year appropriations bills.

US president Joe Biden on Sunday said the deal reached between the congressional Republican leadership and his administration in May would have funded essential domestic and national security priorities and still cut the budget deficit by $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

A government shutdown would put the finances of hundreds of thousands of workers at federal parks, museums, and other sites at risk, but it could also carry significant political costs for Biden, who is running for re-election.

In a video statement on Tuesday, Biden accused “a small group of extreme House Republicans” of attempting to shut down the government to further their priorities.

“I’m prepared to do my part but Republicans in the House of Representatives refuse,” he said. “They refuse to stand up to the extremists in their party. So now, everyone in America could be forced to pay the price.”

While the measure has the backing of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, a number of House conservatives have already lined up against the legislation, pointing to the inclusion of Ukraine aid and the exclusion of border security provisions.

“If they want to put focus on Ukraine and not focus on the southern border, I think their priorities are backwards,” McCarthy said Tuesday about the Senate measure.

Weeks ago, Biden had urged Congress to pass a short-term extension of fiscal 2023 spending, along with emergency aid to help state and local governments cope with natural disasters and help Ukraine in its war against Russia. He also sought new border security funding.

A handful of the hardliner members of McCarthy’s own party have also threatened to oust him from his leadership role if he passes a spending bill that requires any Democratic votes to pass.

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