The Possible Government Shutdown, Explained

Shutdowns have happened before, and the current gridlock in Congress makes another one likely.

Written by Hudson Crozier

What’s happening: Members of Congress have not come to an agreement on several bills outlining the federal government’s October budget. Republicans have demanded lower spending and measures against abortion, sex change procedures, aid to Ukraine, and other Democratic priorities. Some of these proposals are unrelated to budgeting, but Republicans see an opportunity to push them through.

Why it matters: Without a finalized budget, a government shutdown will occur on October 1, causing federal agencies to cease operating if they aren’t considered “essential.” This would impact some welfare programs and possibly air travel, public health regulation, student loans and grants, and disaster relief.

The politics: Some hardline Republicans are willing to wait out a shutdown until Democrats concede to their policy goals. Yet President Joe Biden isn’t budging as his administration promises to keep funding Ukraine even if a shutdown occurs. The White House calls the GOP’s holdup a “political stunt.”

A tough situation: McCarthy conceded to hardcore Republicans on some issues in order to get elected as speaker. In May, he disappointed them by compromising with Biden on spending. McCarthy is now struggling to get cooperation from conservatives who are frustrated with his leadership. Meanwhile, Democrats show no signs of accepting their proposals, which Biden says would violate his prior spending agreements with McCarthy.