What’s Needed to Reopen Government During a Shutdown?

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The federal government is on the verge of a shutdown due to Congress’s failure to pass the 12 yearlong spending bills that fund the government. These appropriations bills must be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the president, but they have not been enacted this year. Without a temporary stopgap measure to fund federal agencies while the bills are being debated and passed, the government will shut down at midnight on Saturday.

The disagreement over spending stems from a deal made between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden to cap federal spending for the next two years. However, right-wing lawmakers opposed the deal, arguing that it allowed for too much spending. They want deeper cuts that the Senate and White House are likely to reject. The Senate is working on a bipartisan spending patch, known as a continuing resolution, that would keep the government open through November 17. However, McCarthy does not have the votes to pass this bill due to opposition from hard-right Republicans. Passing the Senate’s plan could also lead to a challenge to McCarthy’s position as House Speaker.

House Republicans attempted to pass four individual spending bills that cut government funding and included extreme policy riders. However, these bills are expected to be rejected by the Senate and will not become law or prevent a shutdown. McCarthy also failed to pass his own stopgap bill, which included spending cuts and strict immigration restrictions, as it was defeated by a coalition of hard-right Republicans and Democrats.

To reopen the government, Congress would need to pass a temporary spending patch while working on the annual spending bills for the next fiscal year. Both would need to be bipartisan deals, which presents a challenge for McCarthy due to his slim majority in the House. He can either try to pass a bill with Democrats and risk his speakership or find a way to accomplish bipartisan agreements within his party.

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