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Shutdown Deferred: Congress Keeps the Government Going – For Now

Enough lawmakers put aside partisanship to fight another day.

February 29 was a special day, and not just because it only comes around every four years. It’s also the day lawmakers in Congress were able to set aside their partisan differences just long enough to pass an emergency stopgap funding bill to defer the dreaded shutdown. But make no mistake – the short-lived miracle of bipartisan cooperation aside, this continuing resolution (CR) merely delays the inevitable. In just a week’s time, they’ll either have to do it all over again, or else.

The Miracle of Money

As is often the case with the annual appropriation of government funding, Republicans and Democrats fought tooth and nail to get what they wanted, creating a legislative logjam. Until it’s shutdown time, of course. Somehow, they almost always manage to pull together some arrangement – temporary, of course – to avoid actually running out of money.

The House of Representatives passed the temporary funding bill, the fourth this fiscal year, 320-99, with 13 not voting. Without it, funding for about 20% of the federal government would have lapsed on March 2, with the rest running dry on March 8. This bill extends the first deadline to March 8, and the latter to March 22.

New banner Liberty Nation Analysis 1The CR then went to the Senate, where it sailed through 77-13. Isn’t it remarkable how well lawmakers can work together when there’s government money on the line?

“I am happy to inform the American people that there will be no government shutdown on Friday,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor. “When we pass this bill, we will have, thank God, avoided a shutdown with all its harmful effects on the American people.”

The Cost of a Shutdown

Truth be told, few folks would notice a so-called shutdown if the congressional showdown weren’t largely overhyped by the establishment media. All “essential” functions and any mandatory spending programs continue as normal. There’s no suspension of the military, the TSA, or any federal law enforcement – though some of these people might not get paid until after funding is resumed. Social Security and Medicare checks keep coming, as do SNAP benefits, though new applications might not be approved. And, of course, congressional pay won’t be disrupted, nor would the operations of the IRS.

National parks may close, and both the EPA and FDA have been known to halt inspections. A shutdown is bad news in the short term for the federal employees who might not get a paycheck until it’s over – but the bills that eventually restart government funding tend to also approve back pay for those workers.

The exact effects of a shutdown depend on the circumstances, of course, including just how long it lasts. But the true burden on the average American isn’t letting funding lapse, but restarting it. The government is an expensive beast to feed – and temporarily starving it only makes it hungrier.

Same Time Next Week?

This is the fourth consecutive continuing resolution since the fiscal year began five months ago, and none of the dozen annual spending bills that make up the federal budget have been approved yet. The House Freedom Caucus has insisted that Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) use the looming shutdown – now looming only slightly farther off after being delayed a week – to negotiate for several policy riders like measures to reduce illegal immigration and bans on the Pentagon’s abortion travel leave policy or “gender affirming” care for transgender troops.

To the Democrats, however, these are deal breakers. Still, Speaker Johnson claimed negotiators had reached agreements on six of the spending bills, and that they were close to hammering out the others. Can they pull it together in a week – or are we destined to keep kicking this can down the road, one short-term continuing resolution at a time?

Read More From James Fite

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