U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday that a government shutdown would ““undermine” U.S. economic progress by idling key programs for small businesses and children, and could delay major infrastructure improvements.
The shutdown would be the fourth in a decade and comes just four months after a similar standoff brought the federal government within days of defaulting on its $31 trillion-plus in debt. The repeated brinkmanship has raised worries on Wall Street, where the Moody’s ratings agency has warned it could damage the nation’s creditworthiness.
Biden warned that a shutdown could take a heavy toll on the armed forces.
“We can’t be playing politics while our troops stand in the breach. It’s an absolute dereliction of duty,” Biden, a Democrat, said at a ceremony for top U.S. general Mark Milley’s retirement.
McCarthy had hoped the Republicans CR’s border provisions would have pressured at least nine hardline holdouts into backing the measure – and stepping back from the brink of a shutdown.
Democrats, meanwhile had warned that the Republican CR would mean a 30% spending cut in benefits for poor women and children and a 57% cut in resources for battling wildfires. It would increase spending for defense and homeland security.
McCarthy succeeded in passing three of four bills late on Thursday that would fund four federal agencies. The bills were written to accommodate hardline conservative demands and stand no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, though even if they became law, they would not avert a partial shutdown because they do not fund the full government.
McCarthy and Biden in June agreed to a deal that would have funded the government with discretionary spending at $1.59 trillion in fiscal 2024, but House Republican hardliners are demanding another $120 billion in cuts plus tougher legislation that would stop the flow of immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.
A shutdown would delay vital economic data releases, which could trigger financial market volatility, and delay the date that retirees learnhow much their Social Security payments will rise next year. Social Security payments themselves would continue.
“We’re in the middle of a Republican civil war that has been going on for months, and now threatens a catastrophic government shutdown,” top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries told reporters following the vote.
SMALL SLICE OF THE PIE
The current fight focuses on a relatively small slice of the $6.4 trillion U.S. budget for this fiscal year. Lawmakers are not considering cuts to popular benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Several hardliners have threatened to oust McCarthy from his leadership role if he passes a spending bill that requires any Democratic votes to pass, an outcome almost guaranteed given that any successful House bill must also pass the Senate, controlled by Democrats 51-49.
Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s likely election opponent in 2024, has taken to social media to push his congressional allies toward a shutdown.
House Republicans expressed annoyance late Thursday with their hardline colleagues, who have stymied the process at almost every turn.
“They can’t set a fire, call the fire department, turn off their water supply and then blame them for not putting out the fire,” Representative Dan Crenshaw told Reuters. “That’s kind of what’s happening right now.”
Representative Richard Neal, the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, described the appropriations process as “the worst in the 35 years I’ve been here.”