The House of Representatives blew up again Tuesday afternoon, when leadership had to pull back a procedural vote on their only existing proposal for averting a government shutdown at the end of next week. Compounding that failure, a handful of hard-liners voted against advancing the defense appropriations bill for a floor vote.
Those were two monumental losses for Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He has no control over his conference and no plan for combating the nihilism of the Freedom Caucus and its allies. They want the government to shut down, and are happy to advertise that fact.
Since a shutdown appears to be inevitable, what does it mean for the nation?
Nothing good, other than a pissed off electorate potentially driving Republicans out of office in 2024.
There are more than 2.1 million federal employees, hundreds of thousands of whom would likely be furloughed without pay for the duration of a shutdown. As early as this week, federal agencies will start deciding which employees are “essential” and which will be put on ice for the duration.
The White House outlined what that could mean for various operations of government in a memo Tuesday. That includes “all active-duty military personnel and many law enforcement officers” being forced to remain at work without being paid until a funding agreement is made. It would increase the “risk that FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund is depleted and would complicate new emergency response efforts if additional catastrophic disasters occur.”
It would mean “10,000 children across the country would immediately lose access to Head Start.” The EPA would mostly stop inspecting drinking water facilities, hazardous waste sites, and chemical facilities. The Food and Drug Administration “could be forced to delay” food inspections. The Small Business Administration wouldn’t approve new loans.
While Medicare would be funded and people would still get their Social Security checks, new enrollees could see delays in getting their applications processed. People receiving food assistance—already threatened by Republican efforts to slash budgets—might have a struggle to get those benefits. Customer service for many of these programs would likely suffer without funding.
Economic analysts are warning that it looks like this stalemate could be a long one. Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments, said he projects a “70% chance of a shutdown, perhaps a long one lasting into the winter.” Terry Haines, founder of Pangaea Policy, said this “won’t be at all like the one-off short ‘shutdowns’” that had minimal effect on markets, and believes it “will take months to resolve.”
That’s a worst-case scenario. But Goldman Sachs economists reckon that the nation’s gross domestic product growth would be reduced by about 0.2 percentage point each week it lasts, but would recover at a similar rate once the money was flowing again.
There are also the intangible effects of the damage to the government’s credibility at home and abroad when half of one of its three branches is melting down, burning the rest of the government along with it. The potential damage isn’t of quite the same magnitude as the debt limit fight the House extremists waged on the country earlier this year. That threatened to upend the global economy, which is why McCarthy and team eventually blinked.
This time around, they truly believe that “less government isn’t a bad thing” and that the government should be shut down, as Republican Rep. Andy Ogles tweeted. What Ogles isn’t telling us is that he’ll still be getting paid, with our tax dollars. The silver lining is that he’ll also be getting the blame.
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Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.