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Democrats remove debt ceiling bill to avoid looming federal gov't shutdown

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Democrats remove debt ceiling bill to avoid looming federal gov't shutdown
Federal workers protest during a partial government shutdown at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 10, 2019. If Congress doesn't pass a continuing resolution Wednesday or Thursday, the government would shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Democrats in Congress said Wednesday that they have a resolution to keep the federal government funded and avoid a shutdown that would begin at midnight on Thursday, which means it's been separated from a more contentious effort to suspend the debt ceiling.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the upper chamber could vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government later on Wednesday, or possibly Thursday.

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The resolution would pay for the government to keep operating through December.

"With so many critical issues to address, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown," Schumer said. "This proposal will prevent one from happening."

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Current government funding will run out at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. If a shutdown occurred, it would temporarily close a number of nonessential government operations, and possibly disrupt payments to thousands of federal workers and Social Security recipients.

"The Senate could take action as early as today to address a concern that demands the immediate attention of this chamber -- funding the federal government beyond Sept. 30," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

"To prevent a government shutdown Senate Democrats will be introducing a continuing resolution that keeps the government open until early December, while also providing long-sought emergency funding to help Americans still reeling from natural disasters from this summer."

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Democrats initially tied the funding measure to a bill to suspend the debt ceiling until next year, which Republicans have nearly universally opposed. If the debt ceiling isn't suspended or raised by the middle of October, the United States could begin to default on some of its debt obligations.

Schumer said once the resolution is passed in both chambers, it would be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature. Biden canceled a trip to Chicago on Wednesday to stay in Washington, D.C., and help facilitate the effort.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said that during partial shutdowns in 2013 and 2018, about 850,000 non-postal federal employees were furloughed.

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Federal workers aren't allowed to work during a shutdown and aren't paid while they're away from the job. They could eventually receive back pay once the shutdown is over.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress this week that it must keep the government running and address the debt ceiling. She said the debt ceiling must be raised or suspended by about Oct. 18.

The U.S. government has never before defaulted on its debt obligations. Republicans and Democrats both agreed to suspend the debt ceiling multiple times under former President Donald Trump, when the GOP controlled at least one chamber of Congress.

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