Government Shutdown? Federal Budget Closer To Reality
Will the federal government make its deadlines to avoid part one of a phased-in government shutdown on February 19, 2024?
There was good news and bad news from Washington over the first full weekend of 2024, indicating that, in spite of an initial agreement over the total price tag of the federal budget, a shutdown may be unavoidable due to irrelevant culture war distractions and partisan bickering among fringe factions in the House of Representatives.
The Initial Deal
The agreement was for a maximum of just under $2 trillion, which is the amount agreed to last year by the President and the Speaker of the House. The budget includes approximately $886 billion in defense money and just over $7 billion for non-defense spending. The fact that the House and Senate have reconciled these dollar amounts means the negotiations move to the next state, where the House and Senate debate how to spend that money.
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Does This Mean The Federal Budget Has Settled?
No. The agreement here is only the basic framework. The federal budget may have an overall dollar amount now, but the specifics of that–where and when to spend the money–is still up for grabs. Those upper limits of government spending for 2024 are what have been agreed upon. But that’s where the entire system could break down.
Forward Progress? Not So Fast
CNN reported on Monday January 8, 2024, about Congress working over the first full weekend of the year to reach this overall agreement on the final cost of the 2024 federal budget.
That move was hailed on CNN as, “a major step toward averting a partial shutdown that is set to begin later this month.” But that step forward might not be enough. Why? Some lawmakers still want to push their culture war hobby horses into the federal budget. The House succeeded in getting budget cuts applied to the IRS, but there are many other issues to debate. And House factions seem bent on confrontation over those finer points of the budget no matter what the consequences for those in uniform.
Serve The Troops First
The basic problem with that approach, in the eyes of some? Americans find themselves living in an era where two major conflicts threaten to destabilize large portions of the globe, where domestic inflation and the threat of a recession are very real problems.
Americans are living in a time when, in addition to all this, those who have signed on the dotted line to serve their country have to live in mold-infested barracks, apply for supplemental assistance for food, and struggle to find child and healthcare in some cases.
Some get very angry at lawmakers who place more of their focus on whether or not there is a drag queen event on a military base somewhere than the very real problems listed above. These people seem to want the culture war arguments to happen AFTER the government is fully funded, and when troops no longer have to live in toxic family housing. Unreasonable?
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How a Government Shutdown Hurts Military Families
No matter which side of any of the issues mentioned above you fall on, there’s a real education to be had by taking a quick look at what happens to military families if the culture war issues become more important than avoiding a shutdown.
Federal News Network reports, “A third of military families have less than $3,000 in savings. This is often not enough for the expenses of life: Rent, mortgages, bills, gas, groceries, and childcare.”
Federal News Network reports approximately two-thirds of military families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. A government shutdown can delay payment to these troops, upsetting any delicate balance they have managed to eke out while still living payday to payday.
Federal Times says, “The looming government shutdown could further the financial strain on military families.” Do lawmakers really want to take food off the tables of these military families because some won’t set partisanship aside in favor of an agreement on a basic financial issue like an organizational budget?
The Future of the Federal Budget
Will the House and Senate reach a deal despite some major disagreements in how to proceed? The House’s contribution to the initial agreement included a $10 billion cut to IRS funding and a move to get back some $6 billion in funds for COVID-19.
According to CNN, the House Speaker acknowledged that a faction in his party would not like the deal but “the agreement would allow the funding process to move forward while allowing negotiators to “reprioritize funding within the topline towards conservative objectives.”
Whether those objectives stay on task and on target with the actual business of the federal government remains to be seen.
At press time, the two deadlines to avoid a government shutdown (January 19 and February 2 2024) are still looming. This is an ongoing story.
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About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.