U.S. narrowly avoids government shut down

With the deadline quickly approaching, the U.S. government was able to narrowly avoid a full government shutdown just before midnight on Sept. 30. The stopgap bill signed by President Joe Biden will extend the deadline until mid-November, continuing funding to government agencies and allocating billions of dollars for disaster relief. The bill did not include funds for war efforts in Ukraine, as was requested by members of the Senate, but Congress passed the bill out of the greater fear of a full-scale government shutdown.

A government shutdown occurs when Congress is unable to reach an agreement on 12 annual appropriations bills that establish the funding for government-run agencies and programs. Because federal agencies cannot use any money that is not allotted for them by Congress, if an appropriations bill is not approved, the agencies must shut down operations — with the exception of essential government functions. A partial or complete government shutdown means that government employees are not paid until after the shutdown is resolved. This year, a shutdown was almost certain. 

This past June, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Biden passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The act lifted the debt ceiling and set limits on government spending for the fiscal year 2024, which started on Oct. 1, and for the fiscal year of 2025. Conservative members of Congress strongly opposed this bill, as they believed it outlined too much government spending, thus resulting in McCarthy relying on the votes of Democrats to pass the bill in the House. 

In an effort to prevent the shutdown, the Senate looked to pass a continuing resolution which included provisions for keeping the government running until Nov. 17 as well as providing aid to Ukraine and for domestic disaster relief. Far-right Republican Congress members still expressed disinterest in the amount of government spending proposed and threatened to remove McCarthy from his position if he continued his support for this plan.

Ultimately, a bipartisan bill was passed and it allows the government to continue to function until November, while appropriations bills are still in the works. In his signing of the bill, Biden expressed relief that a shutdown would be avoided but expressed frustration with the circumstances.

“This is good news for the American people. But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place,” he said in a statement, according to The Guardian. President Biden also assured that even though aid for Ukraine was not a part of the final continuing resolution, there would be supplemental legislation reinstating aid for Ukraine. He emphasized that it is critical that America does not lapse in their support for Ukraine’s war effort.

Chaos continues to plague the floor of Congress, as McCarthy became the first speaker of the house to be ousted from his position. The motion stemmed from Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and was supported by other far-right members who are adamantly opposed to the deal McCarthy made with Biden. Gaetz and proponents of McCarthy’s removal continue to demand larger cuts in government spending. 

McCarthy’s vacancy is to be filled by a speaker pro-tempore, or temporary speaker, in accordance with a list submitted by McCarthy outlining a list of succession for his position. Republican North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry has entered this role. There are no set guidelines for how long the speaker pro-tempore can remain in this position because the removal of a speaker of the house is entirely unprecedented. The House can hold a vote for the election of a new speaker immediately or at a later time. It’s assumed that it will be held sooner rather than later in order to “move forward with legislative business” as soon as possible, according to NBC News.

Following a tumultuous few weeks on the floor of Congress, the immediate future remains uncertain as government workers navigate the next 36 days until the continuing resolution ends and Congress deals with the vacancy of the speaker of the house seat.




Featured photo courtesy of Harun Tan, Pexels