Government Shutdown 2021: What Is the Stopgap Bill and Which Factors Are Slowing Its Passage?

Washington, DC, USA - July 18, 2017: A United States Senate committee hearing room.
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One way U.S. lawmakers can avoid a government shutdown is to approve a stopgap bill that would provide funding before it runs out on Dec. 3, but that measure keeps running into roadblocks as members of Congress nitpick over details.

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Congress’ inability to arrive at a compromise at this late stage means the only option now is for all 100 senators to agree to schedule a vote before the deadline, CNN reported on Wednesday, Dec. 1. Unless that happens, you can expect a brief government shutdown that could extend into next week.

Much of the disagreement slowing passage of a stopgap bill centers on how long a funding extension should last. Another sticking point is that Senate conservatives also want to vote on defunding the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers.

That mandate has become something of a political rallying point for Senate Republicans, The New York Times reported — so much so that they might be willing to force a shutdown if it sends the message to constituents that they oppose the mandate.

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“I think this is the fight — this is where we have the most leverage actually to accomplish stopping the mandate,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) told The New York Times. “I think that folks back home want to know how hard we’re fighting for them, that the jobs back home are as important as keeping the federal government open.”

As it stands now, there is uncertainty over when a deal will be reached and even when the House and Senate will vote. As of Wednesday afternoon, leaders in Congress still didn’t have an agreement on a stopgap bill to keep the government running beyond Friday.

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In addition to disagreements over the vaccine mandate and how long the stopgap measure should last, Congressional leaders are also haggling over a provision to avoid billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, subsidies and other programs, according to The New York Times.

But even with delays to the stopgap bill, many lawmakers sound confident that a long-term spending bill will be put in place to avoid an extended government shutdown.

As CNN noted, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, Nov. 30, insisted that there wouldn’t be a shutdown. A day later he told reporters, “I think we’re going to be OK” when asked about a possible shutdown.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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