Government shutdown imminent | Local News

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Congressional Democrats are scrambling to avoid a possible government shutdown before Thursday’s midnight deadline.

Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a bill extending the federal budget until December after ongoing partisan struggles to increase the federal borrowing limit.

On Tuesday evening, Senate leaders were circulating a revamped federal spending bill without the Republicans-challenged provision that raises the cap on how much the federal government can borrow. According to Politico, this bill could be voted on in the Senate as early as Wednesday.

If lawmakers on Capitol Hill fail to compromise on a government spending bill on time, the offices of federal agencies in Texas will close and thousands of employees will be put on unpaid leave.

What is happening in Texas?

If Congress fails to strike a deal to fund the government, federal agencies in Texas will cease operations and all non-essential federal employees in Texas will be placed on unpaid leave.

With more than 35,000 federal employees in 22 federal agencies in Texas who could face time off, Texas is third after California and the District of Columbia among the areas most affected by a shutdown, according to data from the US Office of Personnel Management.

Federal services classified as essential to public safety or security, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice, will remain in operation.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, border protection, hospital medical care, air traffic control, law enforcement and power grid maintenance have been classified as essential services in previous shutdowns.

However, non-essential federal agencies like the US National Park Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will shut down or limit visitor services. This includes museums, historic sites, and parks, including Big Bend National Park and the Johnson Space Center.

With limited staff, non-core government procedures could stall until funding resumes. Home or small business loan applications, passport processing and visa applications could all be delayed if closed. Depending on the length of the shutdown, federal assistance like food stamps and social security checks could also be hampered.

Following the most recent shutdown in December 2018, President Donald Trump signed a bill guaranteeing automatic reimbursement of arrears to federal employees once operations resume. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the 35-day shutdown – the longest in U.S. history – cost the U.S. economy about $ 3 billion.

COVID-19 response

While funding lapses are an annual concern in Washington during credit season, a government shutdown during a global pandemic would be unprecedented.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has said it will likely lay off 43% of its staff, but noted that the department’s COVID-19 response efforts and direct public health measures “will generally unfold.” as part of the department’s preparation plan.

This means the Food and Drug Administration will continue to operate with regards to COVID-19, including drug authorizations, drug and drug shortages, and malpractice investigations. The National Institutes of Health will continue to support activities related to the COVID-19 vaccine, including drug trials and research and development.

The shutdown threat comes as the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread rampantly throughout Texas, with 4 million confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki last week told reporters that the Biden administration “is taking all possible measures to mitigate the impacts of a possible shutdown on our response to the pandemic, economic recovery or other priorities “.

While the U.S. Bureau of Management and Budget asked all federal agencies to prepare for a shutdown last Thursday, the office stressed that this is standard notification procedure.

Will it happen?

With Democrats scrapping their demand to raise the debt ceiling in a stand-alone, continuing resolution, a shutdown may be avoided. However, that will push back the national debt problem later this year.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said last week that while he expects Congress to find a solution to keeping government open, the debt ceiling debate will be an ongoing battle of both. sides of the aisle.

“Congress has an obligation to table an appropriation bill and pass one that will keep the lights on here in Congress. And I have every confidence that we will. But in the meantime, there’s going to be quite a bit of drama associated with the debt ceiling, which is a separate issue, ”Cornyn said.

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, indicated in an interview with Politico his intention to obstruct any attempt to increase the federal borrowing limit. He added that Democrats would rather have the safety net of the bipartisan passage rather than pass the provision through budget reconciliation.

“Democrats have the full capacity to raise the debt ceiling as part of reconciliation,” said Cruz. “They want political cover.

Unless a solution is found to increase the federal borrowing limit by mid-October, the government could end up defaulting on its loans.

The threat of closure is the latest in a series of congressional deadlocks in Washington. The Senate also faces a vote on a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure law as negotiations continue on a $ 3.5 trillion bill that includes the majority of the administration’s budget proposals. Biden.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a non-partisan, member-backed newsroom educating and engaging Texans about state politics and politics. Learn more at texatribune.org.


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