Partial Government Shutdown Looms as Debt Ceiling Resolution Remains in Doubt Ahead of Deadline

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Just back from the Thanksgiving break, Congress has a few days to address — once again — the debt ceiling, as well as find a solution to avert a government shutdown.

See: Yellen Updates Debt Ceiling Breach Date, Says US Funds Will Only Last Until Dec. 15
Government Shutdown 2021: Could Social Security Checks in December Be Affected?

The most pressing deadline is Dec. 15, when the short-term measure that funds federal agencies and initiatives is set to expire. This means that the House and Senate need to act swiftly to adopt another spending fix or risk eviscerating our current economic recovery, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

House Democrats are considering proposing a fresh stopgap spending measure that would keep the federal government funded through mid-to-late January, according to a person familiar with the matter, via Bloomberg. However, the Committee for a Responsible Budget said that Congress has not yet enacted any of the 12 bills for fiscal year 2022 that make up the discretionary spending budget. In a “shutdown,” federal agencies must discontinue all non-essential discretionary functions until new funding legislation is passed and signed into law.

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Related: These Services Will Be Inaccessible If Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised by Dec. 15

Congress then needs to address the debt ceiling, which will hit Dec. 15, following Yellen giving Congress two additional weeks to come to an agreement last month. In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in November, which provided an update on the Treasury’s ability to continue to finance the operations of the federal government under the constraints of the debt limit, Yellen revised her debt ceiling estimate.

Her revised timeline stemmed from President Joe Biden’s signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which appropriates $118 billion for the Highway Trust Fund. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that avoiding a shutdown would be a top priority in the week ahead, The Hill reported.

“With so many critical issues, the last thing that the American people need right now is a shutdown, Schumer said. “The last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown, and Democrats are going to work this week to make sure we don’t have one.”

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Several senators seem prepared to spend the holidays working, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who tweeted: “These will be long days and nights ahead in the Senate but I can watch from my office the Capitol Christmas Tree being set up and think of Vermont and home with the fire crackling, while taking pictures like these.”

Despite President Joe Biden signing into law the $1 trillion Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act on November 15, much work is still ahead before the year’s end, which is a recurring complaint from Republicans.

“Here we are now with just a few short days intervening between now and Christmas and the end-of-the-year legislative mad dash is officially upon us,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said on the Senate floor ahead of what lawmakers expect will be a crazy work period, The Hill reported.

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Find: Consumer Confidence Declines in November as Inflation Remains a High Concern
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CNBC noted that a report Monday morning from Punchbowl News suggested the chamber’s Democrats could introduce a stopgap funding bill Tuesday and vote on it as soon as Wednesday.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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