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House and Senate on different paths as US budget deadline looms

House Republicans push Speaker Kevin McCarthy to reject deal made with President Biden.

Congress Budget

The US Congress remains divided as a deadline for preventing a government shutdown draws near.

While the Senate is pushing through a bipartisan package to temporarily fund the government, members of the House are working on an alternative which has little chance of completion ahead of Saturday’s deadline.

A shutdown would furlough millions of federal employees, leave the military without pay, disrupt air travel and cut off vital safety net services.

President Joe Biden, who earlier this year reached a budget deal with Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy that became law, believes it is up to the House Republicans to deliver.

Congress Budget
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy is surrounded by reporters at the Capitol in Washington (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

“A deal is a deal,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “This is for them to fix.”

On Tuesday, the Senate aimed to break the stalemate, advancing a temporary measure called a continuing resolution to keep government running until November 17 by maintaining funding at existing levels with a 6 billion dollar (£4.9 billion) boost for Ukraine and 6 billion dollars(£4.9 billion) for US disaster relief among other provisions.

It is on track for Senate approval but faces long odds in the House.

The Republican Speaker, pushed by a hard-right flank which rejects the deal he made with Mr Biden and is demanding steep spending cuts, showed no interest in the Senate’s bipartisan effort — or the additional money for Ukraine.

“I think their priorities are bad,” Mr McCarthy said about the Senate effort.

Auto Workers Strike Biden
President Joe Biden joins striking United Auto Workers on the picket line in Michigan on Tuesday (Evan Vucci/AP)

He is reviving plans for the House Republicans’ stopgap funding measure which would slash federal spending by 8% for many agencies and attach a hardline border security measure demanded by conservatives.

The president, Democrats and even some Republicans have said it is too extreme.

The White House has downplayed the prospect of talks and Mr McCarthy is expected to spend much of this week trying to pass some of the bills needed to fund government agencies — Defence, Homeland Security, Agriculture and State and Foreign Operations.

The House Republicans advanced those bills on Tuesday after a day of setbacks and disarray, but it is not at all clear if the Speaker has the votes from his hard-right flank to pass the four bills this week.

The hard-right House Republicans are being egged on by former president Donald Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, who has urged them to stand firm in the fight or “shut it down”.

The hard-line Republicans want Mr McCarthy to drop the deal he made with Mr Biden and stick to earlier promises for spending cuts he made to them in January.

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, a key ally of Mr Trump, said on Fox News Channel that a shutdown is not optimal but “it’s better than continuing on the current path that we are to America’s financial ruin”.

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