Congress broke for August recess this week with federal budget plans still incomplete. Lawmakers will have less than a month between their return in mid-September and the deadline of Sept. 30 to pass vital spending bills.
Unless Congress manages to reach agreements on the 11 spending bills still on the docket by then, or passes a continuing resolution to roll current funding levels over to a set date, the country will see a partial government shutdown this Fall.
Unsurprisingly, the process is hampered by the sharp partisan divide between a Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House. While the Senate is looking to keep to spending agreements reached between Joe Biden and House Republicans in May, the House remains embroiled in conflict. Many hard-line House Republicans of the House Freedom Caucus are unshaken by the prospect of a shutdown.
“We should not fear a government shutdown,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a member of the Freedom Caucus, at a press conference last week. “Most of the American people won’t even miss it.”
The split-up of spending resolutions into 12 separate bills, only one of which was passed before the August recess, was itself a concession House Speaker McCarthy made to the Freedom Caucus to secure his speakership. On top of this, several amendments pertaining to culture war politics have been tacked on to these bills by House Republicans, targeting issues like abortion access for service members and diversity training in federal workplaces – all measures a Democrat-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to pass.
Not all Republicans are so optimistic about the shutdown. “We always get blamed for it, no matter what,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. ”So it’s bad policy, it’s bad politics.”
If the shutdown does happen, a range of government functions will be impacted. While the Office and Management and Budget (OMB) works with federal agencies to plan for shutdowns, it still means many federal employees deemed essential will have to work without pay – including TSA, air traffic control, Social Security and Medicare workers.
Besides this, national parks may be closed or limited for the duration of the shutdown, food inspections by the FDA will be halted and small business owners may be unable to apply for small business loans.