US shutdown looms amid political stalemate over budget | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

US shutdown looms amid political stalemate over budget


A US government shutdown looms as Democrat and Republican lawmakers remain unable to strike a deal on a new plan to continue funding its operation.If they fail to reach an agreement by midnight (04:00 GMT Tuesday), the US government will be forced to close all non-essential federal services.
More than 700,000 staff could be sent home on unpaid leave, with no guarantee of back pay once the deadlock is over.
The shutdown would be the first in the US for 17 years.
One of the key points of contention in the political stalemate has been President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare.
Republicans in the House of Representatives – and their allies in the Senate – have demanded the law be repealed or stripped of funding as a condition for continuing to fund the government.
Major portions of the law, which passed in 2010 and has been validated by the US Supreme Court, are due to take effect on Tuesday.
As the Democrats and Republicans vie for political advantage with the shutdown approaching, on Monday Republican House Speaker John Boehner criticised the Democratic-led Senate for remaining in recess on Sunday after the House passed its version of a budget bill.
“The House has done its work,” he said.
“We passed a bill… The Senate decided not to work yesterday. My goodness, if there is such an emergency, where were they?”
•    State department will be able to operate for limited time
•    Department of defence would continue military operations
•    Department of education would still distribute $22bn (£13.6bn) to public schools, but staffing would be severely hit
•    Department of energy – 12,700 staff would be sent home, 1,113 remain to oversee nuclear arsenal
•    Department of health and human services to send home more than half of staff
•    The Federal Reserve, dept of homeland security, and justice dept would see little or no disruption
•    US Postal Services would continue as normal
•    Smithsonian institutions, museums, zoos and many national parks would be closed
Early on Sunday, the Republican-run House of Representatives passed an amended version of the Senate spending bill that removed funding from the healthcare law and repealed a $29bn (£17.9bn) medical device tax.
US Senate Majority leader Harry Reid vowed that his Democrat-led chamber would reject the Republican bill.
“[On Monday], the Senate will do exactly what we said we would do and reject these measures,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Mr Reid.
“At that point, Republicans will be faced with the same choice they have always faced: put the Senate’s clean funding bill on the floor and let it pass with bipartisan votes, or force a Republican government shutdown.”
Speaking for the president, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown.” The president, he said, would also veto the Republican bill.
If the government does shut down on 1 October, national parks and Washington’s Smithsonian museums would close, pension and veterans’ benefit cheques would be delayed, and visa and passport applications would go unprocessed.
Programmes deemed essential, such as air traffic control and food inspections, would continue.
The defence department has advised employees that uniformed members of the military will continue on normal duty, but that large numbers of civilian workers will be told to stay home.
Borrowing crisis
The looming shutdown is not the only crisis the US government is facing.
The US government and Republicans are also at loggerheads over extending the government’s borrowing limit.
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned that the US will hit its debt ceiling by 17 October, leaving the government with half the money needed to pay its bills.
Earlier this month, Mr Lew said that unless the US was allowed to extend its borrowing limit, the country would be left with about $30bn (£18.5bn) to meet its commitments, which on certain days can be as high as $60bn.
A failure to raise the limit could also result in the US government defaulting on its debt payments.
President Obama has warned that “failure to meet this responsibility would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown”.
Washington faced a similar impasse over its debt ceiling in 2011. Republicans and the Democrats only reached a compromise on the day the government’s ability to borrow money was due to run out.
That fight was resolved just hours before the country could have defaulted on its debt, but nevertheless led to ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgrading the US for the first time ever.
The 2011 compromise included a series of automatic budget cuts known as the “sequester” which came into effect earlier this year.
The US government has not experienced a shutdown since 1995-96, when services were suspended for a record 21 days.
Republicans demanded then-President Bill Clinton agree to their version of a balanced budget.
After weeks of negotiation, they reached a compromise similar to what they discussed prior to the shutdown. – BBC News


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