If you are one of the millions of Americans who could be impacted by a government shutdown, take a deep breath of relief -- there will no longer be any sort of catastrophe if a deal isn't reached by December 8. Now the government may simply shut down two weeks later, instead.
Yes, it seems like the government shutdown -- formerly a once-in-a-lifetime threat -- is yet again looming around the corner. The Republican majority in Congress remains so determined to push its agenda that they are again proposing to close down the US government, rather than pass a reasonable budget that requires any sort of compromise with Democrats.
But they have offered a little wiggle room. Right now, the GOP has agreed to put the actual shutdown on hold for an additional two weeks, in order to push through their unpopular tax plan -- one that benefits large corporations and the independently wealthy.
"House Republican leaders are likely to try averting a partial government shutdown next week by extending talks on a longer-term funding deal until just before Christmas and possibly again into early 2018, senior House GOP aides said Thursday," the Washington Post reports. "Up against a Dec. 8 spending deadline, House Republican leaders are likely to introduce a measure that would extend current funding until Dec. 22, said the aides, who were granted anonymity to describe private deliberations."
Republicans hope that a short deadline extension will allow them to pull in the few Democratic votes needed in the Senate to help overcome a filibuster. Meanwhile, Democrats appear unwilling to approve any legislation that fails to address President Donald Trump's decision to end the DREAM Act for undocumented immigrants living in the US.
According to Politico:
Immigration discussions are likely to complicate spending negotiations further since Democrats say they won't do anything without a solution for Dreamers. A small group of Senate Republicans has been trying to negotiate an immigration package that includes a Dreamer fix paired with security provisions that can win over conservatives as well as Democrats. But there's been little bipartisan consensus behind the scenes.
And the defense budget is also causing headaches, as war hawks demand more funding for military endeavors. Meanwhile, the fiscal GOP hopes to push off the budget deal until their tax plan reaches the president's desk.
Lost in much of the chatter and political posturing is the health of thousands of low and middle income children insured under the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
CHIP, a bipartisan health care policy, was supposed to have its funding reauthorized almost two months ago, but Congress failed to act -- and dragged its feet ever since. Without a new federal budget, CHIP programs in most states will quickly go broke, and many are already on the verge of it. And that means millions of children will be cut off from their medical services, foregoing even basic preventative care until a budget is eventually passed.
"Congress must pass a spending bill by next Friday, and CHIP funding is expected to be part of the omnibus bill," reports ABC News. "But CHIP funding has been held up by disagreements between the House and Senate over how to offset funds. CHIP will cost the federal government approximately $15 billion to fund, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates."
Just like in past years, a government shutdown would mean financial harm to military families, government employees, those who need federal aid and more. But this year there are the added concerns of those children who will lose health care, as well as undocumented immigrants who lack legal protections. Meanwhile, with Congress more rabidly divided than ever before, a shutdown may be almost unavoidable.
And after Republicans pass massive handouts to the wealthy and big business, the GOP will have no one to blame but themselves.