Will the United States be able to pay its civil servants next week? The world’s largest economy is once again facing the threat of a paralysis of its administration due to a political blockage (AFP/Archives/SAUL LOEB)
Will the United States be able to pay its civil servants next week? The world’s largest economy is once again facing the threat of paralysis of its administration due to a political blockage, four months after coming close to default.
The 2024 budget must be adopted by Congress before October 1. But without an agreement between Democrats and Republicans, the federal administration will have to stop certain payments.
And the first victims would be the approximately two million federal civil servants who would see their salaries suspended for the duration of the “shutdown”.
A little over a year before the presidential election, in which Democratic President Joe Biden is a candidate, the two parties are at loggerheads.
“Funding the government is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of Congress. It’s time for Republicans to start doing the work America elected them to do,” thundered Joe Biden at a dinner on Saturday.
The White House added another layer on Monday, accusing the “Republican extremists in the House” of taking the risk of “compromising vital food assistance for nearly seven million vulnerable women and children”, at the risk of “playing with the people’s lives”, a possible paralysis of federal public services, effectively cutting off these federal expenditures.
US President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky (l) in the Oval Office of the White House, September 21, 2023 in Washington (AFP/Jim WATSON)
Tensions are crystallizing around additional aid for Ukraine, after the visit to Washington on Thursday by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Both parties in the Senate are in favor. But, in the House of Representatives, a handful of elected officials from the Trumpist right refuse to cast their votes.
“I will not vote to spend a single cent on the war in Ukraine. I am for America first,” declared Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, a close friend of Donald Trump, on Friday in a video filmed in front of a camera. bodybuilding and published on the social network X (formerly Twitter).
Also in a gym, with an American flag in the background, another elected official, Eli Crane, also posted a video criticizing this aid: “People in my district, and across the country, are so tired of funding others.”
– Recurring tensions –
The necessary vote on the budget in Congress regularly turns into a standoff, with each camp raising the specter of stopping federal services to obtain concessions from the other. Usually with a last minute resolution.
But these recurring tensions are exacerbated this year by polarization in Congress.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, surrounded by Senate officials, Republican Mitch McConnell (l) and Democrat Chuck Schumer (d), at the Capitol, September 21, 2023 in Washington (AFP/Pedro Ugarte)
On the Senate side, the leaders of both parties, Chuck Schumer for the Democrats, Mitch McConnell for the Republicans, two veterans of politics, continue to discuss.
“(We) are both strongly in favor of aid to Ukraine,” Chuck Schumer told CNN on Friday, saying he was “very, very optimistic.”
In a note published Monday, the Moody’s agency stressed that the absence of an agreement would “underline the weakness of governance and institutions in the United States in terms of fiscal policy” and “have a negative effect on sovereign debt ” American, while it is the last agency to grant the maximum rating, AAA, to American debt.
Failing to agree, a draft provisional budget could be adopted, which would offer a few months of respite to elected officials to find common ground.
This threat of paralysis comes just four months after the previous saga, that of the debt ceiling, the consequences of which would have been even more significant, with a possible payment default by the United States.
As part of the agreement that was signed, the Democrats agreed to limit certain spending, which should have allowed the budget stage to pass smoothly.
However, “today, a small group of extremist Republicans does not want to respect the agreement and all Americans could have to pay the price”, lamented Joe Biden on Saturday.
“We need to lock ourselves in a room and solve the problem,” said Republican elected official Tony Gonzales on Sunday.
“I don’t want a ‘shutdown’ but it is certain for me that the country is heading towards it and that everyone must prepare for it,” he added.
Among the consequences to anticipate, certain food aid checks may not be sent. Air traffic could be disrupted, national parks not maintained, etc. Civil servants considered “non-essential” will be asked to stay at home, and will only receive their salaries once the problem has been resolved.
The country has experienced four major “shutdowns” since 1976. The last, the longest, lasted more than a month at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, reducing the GDP of the United States by $3 billion, according to the services. of the Congressional Budget (CBO).
© 2023 AFP
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