Government shutdown: Congress struggles to find solution as deadline nears/What is a government shutdown?

The Guardian – By Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington – Thursday 18 Jan 2018

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Budget negotiations in Congress remained stalled on Thursday as Donald Trump, preparing to mark his first anniversary in office, faced the prospect of the first government shutdown in four years.

US lawmakers are racing toward a deadline to pass a spending bill or trigger the shutdown – which would freeze most government services and leave federal workers going unpaid.

With funding for the government due to expire at midnight on Friday, negotiations over the budget continued to struggle amid a dispute over spending priorities and immigration.

The breakdown of talks kicked off a pre-emptive blame game in Washington, with Trump and Republicans pointing a finger at Democrats for insisting that any compromise must include protections for nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters during a visit to the Pentagon on Thursday. “It’s up to the Democrats.”

The president’s decision to stop by the US Department of Defense, as Republican leaders in Congress crafted a contingency plan in the event of a shutdown, underscored the political urgency.

There has never been a government shutdown, which would cost the US an estimated $6.5bn a week and stifle economic progress, when one party has controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House.

What is a government shutdown?

hen the US Congress fails to pass appropriate funding for government operations and agencies, a shutdown is triggered. Most government services are frozen, barring those that are deemed “essential”, such as the work of the Department of Homeland Security and FBI.

During a shutdown, nearly 40% of the government workforce is placed on unpaid furlough and told not to work. Many, but not all, are non-defense federal employees. Active duty military personnel are not furloughed.

Why is the government poised to shut down?

Members of Congress are at an impasse over what should be included in a spending bill to keep the government open. Democrats have insisted any compromise must also include protections for the nearly 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the US as children.

The Dreamers, who were granted temporary legal status under Barack Obama, were newly exposed to the threat of deportation when Donald Trump moved to rescind their protections in September. Trump and Republicans have argued immigration is a separate issue and can be dealt with at a later time. It remains unclear if Democrats have the votes, however, to force a shutdown over Dreamers.

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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