The US government is headed towards a shutdown this weekend as Republicans and Democrats pursued rival stopgap measures to prevent a closure that would disrupt many government services, squeeze federal employees and roil politics.
The closure of all but critical government services, set to start on Sunday after midnight (04:00 GMT Sunday) if lawmakers fail to reach a deal, would be the first since 2019 – immediately delaying salaries for millions of federal employees and military personnel.
“It will have an immediate impact at one minute past midnight [04:01 GMT Sunday]” when “basically large areas of federal institutions shut down,” said Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington, DC.
“The military is the key issue here because military cheques are due to go out in the middle of October. If the situation is not resolved by then, it means some two million members of the military won’t be getting paid. All federal workers will not be paid. They will be put on leave or they will be forced to work without pay.”
The two chambers of Congress are deadlocked, as House Republicans, fuelled by hard-right demands to slash budgets, are forcing a confrontation over federal spending – which also includes aid to Ukraine.
It is impossible to predict how long a shutdown would last. The Democratic-held Senate and Republican-controlled House are working on vastly different plans to avert a shutdown, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is struggling to win any support from hard-right conservatives to keep the government open.
At particular issue has been the inclusion of more aid to Ukraine in the funding package, with a growing number of Republicans staunchly opposed to providing more assistance to the country in its conflict with Russia.
McCarthy said he would hold a vote Saturday on a new measure that would keep the government open for another 45 days at current spending levels but without any aid for Ukraine.