Congress faces government shutdown this weekend

(The Center Square) – Lawmakers face a tight deadline this week to pass a spending measure or face a government shutdown Friday at midnight.

Republicans and Democrats are engaged in negotiations over a spending measure to fund the government, either to buy a few weeks for more negotiations or to fund spending longer into next year. Leadership in both parties has said publicly they do not expect a shutdown this weekend, but other members in their ranks are not so sure.

“Instead of meeting the needs of the American people, Democrats have chosen to play politics – risking a government shutdown and worsening their inflated economy,” said U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Lawmakers are grappling over whether to pass a roughly two-week spending measure to give more time for negotiations or see if they can reach a deal on a longer version by Friday. Congress is scheduled to wrap up all legislative business for the year on Dec. 13, but given the legislative hurdles ahead of them, they are now expected to continue past that date.

Among those hurdles are the major military funding bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, and Biden’s “Build Back Better” social spending plan. Congress will also likely need to raise the debt ceiling this month to prevent a default on its debt payments after the Treasury Department signaled the need for an increase by the middle of December.

Congress passed a measure to fund the government from Oct. 1 of this year through Friday, Dec. 3.

The shutdown deadline comes as Senate Democrats remain divided over President Joe Biden’s proposed “Build Back Better” social spending plan.

That plan hit a snag last month when the Congressional Budget Office reported it would increase the deficit, despite Biden’s pledge otherwise.

“With so many critical issues, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown, and Democrats are going to work this week to make sure we don’t have one this time around,” Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor.

Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised that the government would not shut down.

One of the party’s more outspoken members, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is among those calling for defunding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to fight back against Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employers. Biden enacted a federal vaccine mandate through OSHA, the federal agency normally in charge of workplace safety regulations.

All these competing elements will likely make for a busy legislative month for both sides of the aisle.

“The current continuing resolution expires on Friday, December 3rd, which means Congress needs a new funding package to avoid a government shutdown,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Unfortunately, it appears that another continuing resolution will be needed – two months into the fiscal year, Congress has yet to complete its appropriations. This is the 25th year in a row that Congress hasn’t passed appropriations bills on time. It’s truly unacceptable that our leaders can’t fulfill this basic function of government. When they do finally agree on appropriations for this fiscal year, they should do so in the context of extending discretionary budget caps at responsible levels. With inflation high and debt near record levels, the last thing we need is to grease the wheels with even more deficit-financed spending.”

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