US government shutdown looms | Herald Sun



The US government is on the brink of an embarrassing shutdown after senators failed to bring forward a stopgap motion to temporarily fund operations.

The government will run out of money on Friday at midnight local time (4pm Saturday AEDT).

The failure of the motion in the Senate — which earlier cleared the House with a 230-197 vote — means President Donald Trump will enter the first anniversary of his inauguration on Saturday as the head of an administration that is out of funds.

WHAT THE SHUTDOWN MEANS:

MILITARY

The Defense Department said a shutdown would not affect the US military’s war in Afghanistan or its operations against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria. All 1.3 million military personnel on active duty would remain on normal duty status.

Civilian personnel in non-essential operations would be furloughed.

JUSTICE

The Justice Department has many essential workers. Under its shutdown contingency plan, about 95,000 of the department’s almost 115,000 staff would keep working.

FINANCIAL OVERSIGHT

The stock market-policing Securities and Exchange Commission funds itself by collecting fees from the financial industry, but its budget is set by Congress. It has said in the past it would be able to continue operations temporarily in a shutdown.

WHITE HOUSE

More than 1000 of the 1715 staff at the White House would be furloughed, the Trump administration said on Friday. The president would be provided with enough support to carry out his constitutional duties, including staff needed for a planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, administration officials said.

media_cameraUS President Donald Trump will have a depleted White House staff until the budget situation is resolved. Picture: AFP

NATIONAL PARKS

The Trump administration plans to keep national parks open with rangers and security guards on duty.

TAXES

The Internal Revenue Service furloughed 90 per cent of its staff in 2013, the liberal Center for American Progress said. About $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed as a result, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

MAIL DELIVERY

Deliveries would continue as usual because the US Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations.

TRAVEL

Air and rail travellers did not feel a big impact in 2013 because security officers and air traffic controllers remained at work. Passport processing continued with some delays.

media_cameraPassport control may be impacted by the US government shutdown, potentially hampering the plans of foreign travellers. Picture: iStock

COURTS

The Administrative Office of the US Courts has said federal courts, including the Supreme Court, could continue to operate normally for about three weeks without additional funding.

HEALTHCARE

In 2013, the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly continued largely without disruption.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Social Security and disability cheques were issued in 2013 with no change in payment dates and field offices remained open but offered limited services. There were delays in the review process for new applicants.

LOANS

Processing of mortgages and other loans was delayed when lenders could not access government services such as income and Social Security number verification.

VETERANS

Most employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would not be subject to furlough. VA hospitals would remain open and veterans’ benefits would continue, but education assistance and case appeals would be delayed, the department said.

ENERGY

The Department of Energy said on Friday that since most of its appropriations are for multiple years, employees should report to work as normal during a shutdown until told otherwise.

Earlier in the day US President Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure over needing Democrat support in the Senate:

Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier proposed that if the stopgap motion was defeated in the Senate, there should be an even shorter-term funding measure that would “give the president a few days to come to the table.”

President Trump phoned Senator Schumer to invite him to the White House Friday afternoon local time to try to reach some sort of accord.

As a shutdown loomed, the White House said Trump would not leave for a planned weekend trip to Florida. The president had been set to leave Friday afternoon to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his inauguration at his Palm Beach estate.

Schumer pointed the finger at Republicans in comments he made near his Capitol office, AP reported.

“They’re in charge,” Mr Schumer said.

“They’re not talking to us. They’re totally paralysed and inept. There’s no one to negotiate with.”

media_cameraUS Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to members of the media at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Picture: Getty Images

Republicans controlling the narrowly split chamber argue that it’s the Democrats who are holding the government hostage over demands to protect “dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally.

And the White House piled on, trying to paint the impending action as the “Schumer shutdown.”

Still, officials said the president had been working the phones trying to avert one.

During the last government shutdown in 2013 Mr Trump called into his favourite news program Fox & Friends to blame then President Obama, saying the blame for a shutdown always lays squarely with the president.

“The problems start from the top and have to get solved from the top,” Trump said then.

“The president is the leader, and he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Majority Leader, said the House bill provides for four weeks of funding, enough to allow talks to continue “without throwing the government into disarray for no reason.”

media_cameraSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate floor at the US Capitolin Washington, DC. Picture: AFP

Schumer wants to “hold the entire country hostage,” McConnell said.

“The leader is looking to deflect blame, but it just won’t work,” said Schumer.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Schumer to avoid a government shutdown, saying:

“It is risky. It is reckless. And it is wrong.”

Trump — who Schumer said “is like a Sphinx on this issue” — started on Thursday adding to the chaos gripping Washington, weighing in on the intense Republican manoeuvring aimed at avoiding a politically embarrassing funding debacle.

After a burst of tweets he second-guessed top Republican politicians and slapped down his own chief of staff, who had been leading a White House push on Capitol Hill for a budget compromise.

Arriving at the Pentagon for a visit, Trump told reporters the government “could very well” shut down.

The most recent shutdowns — in 1995, 1996 and 2013 — saw about 800,000 workers furloughed per day.

The finger-pointing had already begun, with each side blaming the other for a failure to reach a budget compromise after three previous funding extensions.

“A government shutdown will be devastating to our military … something the Dems care very little about!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

And yet in another tweet, Trump criticised the Republican short-term funding measure, opposing a sweetener intended to make it hard for Democrats to vote against it.

media_cameraSpeaker of the House Paul Ryan at the US Capitol. A continuing resolution to fund the government faces a stiff challenge in the Senate. Picture: AFP

The sweetener is a six-year extension of CHIP, a popular children’s health insurance program which Democrats have worked hard to protect.

Up against a similar deadline last month, politicians passed a short-term resolution to keep the federal government funded until January 20.

Paul Ryan hit out at the Democrats on Twitter, accusing them of “taking funding for the government and funding for our troops hostage” over “unrelated policy.”

“They are treating our men and women in uniform like bargaining chips,” he fumed.

Negotiations on a bipartisan compromise that includes a solution for the “Dreamers” program collapsed in acrimony at a White House meeting last week.

Trump’s reported reference to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries” ignited a still-smouldering political firestorm.

Originally published as US shutdown: what it means





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US government shutdown looms | Herald Sun