Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Biden meets with congressional leaders ahead of government shutdown deadline

By 37ci3 Feb27,2024

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is meeting with four top congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday. send military aid to foreign allies and to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of the week.

“It is the responsibility of Congress to fund the government,” Biden said at the start of the meeting. “A tie-up would hurt the economy significantly, and I think we all agree that we need a bipartisan solution.”

Biden last met with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., more than a month ago on Jan. 17, but in the weeks since then, Johnson and congressional Democrats have been unable to agree on critical military aid or the hammer to Ukraine. revealed the details the budget agreement they reached last month to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Johnson is attending Tuesday’s meeting along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

As he left the Capitol to head to the White House, a reporter asked Johnson if there would be a government shutdown. “No,” said the speaker. “We will work to prevent this.”

If they can’t find a way forward on funding, the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, as well as other programs, will be shut down at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Funding for the rest of the government, including the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, expires a week later, on March 9 at 12:01 p.m.

Even a partial shutdown starting this weekend would furlough hundreds of thousands of federal workers and freeze pay for those still required to report to work in affected departments. It would also jeopardize food assistance programs for women and children, freeze loans to American farmers and freeze the hiring and training of air traffic controllers as the country faces critical shortages. Under the recently passed law, federal workers will receive back pay after the shutdown ends.

And Department of Veterans Affairs, the shutdown would close VA regional offices and the GI Bill hotline, end career counseling or transition assistance programs for veterans, suspend community affairs and outreach to veterans, and freeze the maintenance of plots at VA cemeteries. Health and benefits provided by the VA will not be affected, and burials at national cemeteries will continue, the department said.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough was notified Monday that the agency plans to close. An OMB official said the White House Office of Management and Budget began an initial meeting Friday with senior leaders of federal agencies about the potential shutdown.

Still, lawmakers race to prevent another disaster from befalling them. They were expected to announce the first tranche of appropriations bills this week to avoid a partial shutdown of bilateral talks. But by Monday evening, the bills had still not been tabled and shared with colleagues for review.

With the deadline fast approaching, a stopgap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, may be needed to avoid a shutdown.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former GOP whip who is a close adviser to McConnell, said: “I think we’re headed for CR for some indefinite period of time, but that’s all I can tell you.”

“I hope they do a CR that will be short-term and then we’ll get these bills done,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, who represents thousands of federal workers who will be affected.

Part of the delay to date stems from House conservatives demanding that Johnson block the Biden administration’s spending initiatives on climate, diversity and equity initiatives, student loans, gun policy, transgender care and abortion-related travel. However, those riders would be immediately rejected by the Democratic-led Senate — a fact acknowledged by GOP leader McConnell.

“A government shutdown is bad for the country, and it’s never good for politics or policy,” McConnell said in a speech on Monday. “We have plenty of time this week to avoid a shutdown and make significant progress on annual appropriations, but as always, the task requires everyone to move in the same direction toward clean funds and away from the poison pill.”

Schumer, who returned to Washington on Monday, warned that Congress “has little time to act” and must “resist the centrifugal pull of hard-right extremism.”

“I hope that pragmatic Republicans will engage in responsible governance by working with Democrats to prevent a shutdown this week,” he said. “Senate Democrats want to do the right thing and keep the government open. I hope the Chamber will continue to work with us in good faith to make this happen. But time is short. Time is short.”

The funding demonstration continues other congressional work. It is unlikely that the house will be shipped Articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Three sources said it would be sent to the Senate until the government’s funding process is complete.

A final decision has not been made on exactly when the articles will be sent, prompting the Senate trial, one of the sources said. But Johnson wants to pass the bipartisan funding deadline before impeaching the Senate.

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By 37ci3

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