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White House: Prepare for Shutdown

Democrats don't have an answer to GOP threats to block lifting of debt ceiling
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2021 4:05 PM CDT
Agencies Told to Prepare for Shutdown
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, speaks Thursday while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer listen at the Capitol.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – Lacking a plan to avert the crisis—publicly, at least—White House officials are telling federal agencies to prepare for a government shutdown. Both parties have said it won't come to that, but Congress remains on that course. Government funding runs out on Sept. 30, the Washington Post reports, and a warning usually goes out seven days before a potential shutdown. The House has passed a package that also would suspend the debt ceiling and fund disaster and refugee aid, but Senate Republicans say they won't vote for anything that raises the debt ceiling. Other developments Thursday involved:

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  • Accountability. Senate Republicans say they mean it when they promise to block the bill. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer still wants a vote. "Every single member of this chamber is going to go on record as to whether they support keeping the government open and averting a default, or support shutting us down and careening our country toward a first-ever default," he said.
  • Options. Democrats have begun talking about how to do an end run on Republicans, possibly next week. One possibility is a short-term deal to keep government running and put off the debt ceiling debate; Republicans have reacted positively to that idea. The government would hit the ceiling in October.
  • Finger-pointing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pressured Democrats by saying they can raise the debt ceiling without GOP help. "This is a totally Democratic government. They have an obligation to raise the debt ceiling and they will do it," he said, per the Hill. Republican John Thune promised no help. "I think a lot of our members are very uncomfortable doing anything that would make it easier for them," he said. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said her party's Plan B "is to have Republicans step up and be responsible."
  • The complications. Democrats are trying to resolve the standoff at the same time they're seeking passage of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package and other domestic priorities of President Biden's.

  • The pandemic. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is working to minimize the effect a shutdown would have on the COVID-19 battle, per CNN. Bill Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a former Republican Senate staffer, warned about the lasting effects, economic and otherwise. "This would be the first shutdown during a declaration of national emergency," he said, adding that, especially with the delta variant unsolved, "to have a shutdown of some of the major federal agencies would add unbelievable complications to our ability to recover."
(Read more government shutdown stories.)

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