No clear path to deal five days before partial US government shutdown

Congress paralysed amid negotiations to fund the federal government and pass supplemental funding for foreign aid

Five months into the fiscal year, Congress has failed to approve any annual spending bills and the deadline for a budget is on March 1. Getty Images / AFP
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US politicians are returning to Capitol Hill this week with only five more days until a partial government shutdown, as partisanship again stalls the passing of a federal budget.

Five months into the fiscal year, Congress has failed to approve any annual spending bills and the deadline for a budget is March 1.

A partial government shutdown will occur at midnight on Friday if Congress fails to pass a budget this week, with a full shutdown possible on March 8.

Congressional leaders had hoped to release government funding legislation at the weekend, but negotiations appear to have reached an impasse.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a “Dear Colleagues” letter on Sunday, warning that Washington is once again facing “the spectre of a harmful and unnecessary government shutdown caused by an extreme wing within the Republican Party”.

Key leaders in the Democrat-controlled Senate are “having intense discussions” with Speaker Mike Johnson in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Mr Schumer said.

The Democrat warned that even a partial shutdown would “disrupt supply chains, hamper small businesses, upend services for our military and veterans, jeopardise health care for children and families, and much, much more”.

Mr Johnson fired back, claiming Republicans in the House are “continuing to work in good faith” on achieving a deal.

“Our position is that of the American people and our mission is to take steps to rein in Democrats’ overspending and policies that are harming the economy, raising prices and making everyday life harder for our constituents,” he said.

Though senators returned to Washington on Monday, the House will not be in session until Wednesday, adding more heat to the political pressure cooker.

President Joe Biden will convene congressional leaders on Tuesday at the White House, where he will “discuss the urgency of passing the bipartisan national security supplemental and keeping the government open”, according to the White House schedule.

In addition to the urgency over passing a budget for the federal government, Washington has been entrenched in a partisan stalemate over passing a massive foreign aid and border security package that includes billions in funding for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Hopes were raised earlier this month when the Senate passed a bipartisan $95 billion foreign aid bill, but the chaotic Republican-controlled House killed the legislation.

Mr Biden's State of the Union address is scheduled for the evening of March 7, one day before the government could completely shut down.

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Updated: February 26, 2024, 5:22 PM