By: Lucy Panicacci
With bipartisan support, Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown on Sept. 30. Congress passed a last-minute 45-day funding bill less than three hours before the shutdown cut-off, keeping the government open through mid-November. Following numerous failed attempts for House Republicans to agree, the bill passed 335-91 in the House with the opposition of one Democrat and 90 Republicans. The Senate approved the legislation 88-9, achieving broad bipartisan support. After the passing of the short-term extension, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries stated, “It was a victory for the American people and a complete and total surrender by right-wing extremists who throughout the year have tried to hijack the Congress.”
If Congress fails to pass funding legislation, a government shutdown occurs, halting all nonessential government work and the payment of government workers. A shutdown would delay the paychecks of two million military personnel and two million civilian workers nationwide. In addition, the work of more than half of the Department of Defense’s civilian workforce would come to a halt. Head Start programs aiding disadvantaged children would lose federal funding, and national parks would close.
Congress did not reach a consensus until the last-minute due to opposition from far-right Republicans, complicating the process. This far-right sector, known as the Freedom Caucus, demanded slashes to spending levels and enactment of conservative-favored immigration policies. They also refused a temporary stopgap bill to keep the government running past Sept. 30. “This is a whole new concept of individuals who just want to burn the whole place down. It doesn’t work,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy stated after a vote on the issue on Sept. 17.
McCarthy’s final spending resolution avoided the spending cuts and extreme demands pushed by far-right Republicans. However, the legislation did not include funding for Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine war, dissatisfying a major priority of Democrats.
However, McCarthy’s refusal to accept his party’s far-right interests and reliance on Democrat votes caused anger among the Freedom Caucus. Representative (Rep.) Matthew Rosendale of Montana posted on X, “Every single Democrat in the House, except for one, voted for Kevin McCarthy’s ploy to continue Nancy Pelosi’s budget and Joe Biden’s policies. Are we sure Hakeem Jeffries is not the Speaker?” Infuriated, far-right Republicans plotted for McCarthy’s ousting. To become speaker in January, McCarthy made it easier to oust the speaker, lowering the number of members to force an oust vote from five to one. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida utilized this new requirement to orchestrate a motion to vacate McCarthy on Oct. 3, resulting in his removal with a 216 to 210 vote. With the House in turmoil and the government funding issue still unsolved, the leaders of the Republican party recognize the need for organization more than ever.
(Sources: AP, CNBC, NBC, Washington Post)