US prepares for shutdown with only four days for Congress to fund government

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy rejects stopgap funding bill advancing in Senate

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reacts after a House Republican conference meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, on September 27, 2023. Reuters
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US Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday rejected a stopgap funding bill, bringing Washington closer to its fourth partial shutdown of the US government in a decade, with only four days to go.

That would lead to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers and the suspension of a wide range of government services, from economic data releases to nutrition benefits, until Congress manages to pass a funding bill that President Joe Biden would sign into law.

The Senate plan, which advanced on a wide bipartisan margin on Tuesday, would fund the government until November 17, giving politicians more time to agree on funding levels for the full fiscal year starting on October 1.

“I don't see the support in the House” for the Senate plan, Mr McCarthy said, although the bill has the support of Senate Republicans, including minority leader Mitch McConnell.

“The President should step in and do something about it; otherwise the government will shut down.”

The House of Representatives was expected to vote late into the night on amendments to specific funding bills, though even if all four of those bills were to be signed into law by Saturday, on their own, they would not be enough to prevent a partial government shutdown.

Executive branch agencies were already making preparations for determining which federal workers would remain on the job – without pay until the government is funded – and which ones will be furloughed.

"If we have a government shutdown, a lot of vital work and science and health could be impacted, from cancer research to food safety," Mr Biden said on Wednesday.

"So the American people need our Republican friends in the House of Representatives to do their jobs: Fund the government."

What is a US government shutdown?

What is a US government shutdown?

Weeks ago, Mr Biden urged Congress to pass a short-term extension of fiscal 2023 spending, along with emergency aid to help state and local governments cope with natural disasters and help Ukraine in its war against Russia. He also sought new border security funding.

The Senate's bill would appropriate about $6 billion for domestic disaster responses and another $6 billion in new aid to Ukraine.

House Republicans want much tougher legislation that would stop the flow of immigrants at the US southern border with Mexico, and deeper spending cuts than were enacted in June.

Mr McCarthy said House Republicans would probably bring their own stopgap measure to the floor on Friday.

It was unknown whether there would be the votes in the House to win passage of it, however.

“My advice is buckle up – there's turbulence ahead,” Representative Andy Ogles told reporters after attending a closed-door meeting of fellow Republicans.

Updated: September 27, 2023, 9:41 PM