02 Dec 2021, 10:04

US government shutdown looms as lawmakers squabble

  WASHINGTON, Dec 2, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - The threat of a US federal government
shutdown loomed larger Wednesday as lawmakers failed to reach a budget
agreement with just two days to go before the funding runs out.

  Congress has until Friday night to come up with a new budget in order to
avoid a sudden stoppage of most so-called non-essential federal government
operations, putting hundreds of thousands of workers on furlough without pay.

  Various administrative offices, national parks, museums and dozens of other
services would see their congressional authorization to spend money stop at
the end of Friday.

  During the winter 2018-2019 shutdown, which was the longest in US history
at about five weeks, security lines at airports were even affected.

  Despite deep partisan divisions, the majority of both Republican and
Democratic lawmakers hope to avoid a repeat of that scenario, which could
wreak havoc ahead of the holidays.

  But a handful of Republicans, many of whom are supporters of former
president Donald Trump, are refusing to agree to the budget because they say
it would contribute to the imposition of vaccine mandates ordered by
President Joe Biden.

  In a statement Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus asked their Senate
colleagues to "use all procedural tools at your disposal to deny timely
passage" of any budget agreement that funds vaccine mandates or their

  Several Democrats expressed their frustration at the partisan stalemate,
especially as the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant was confirmed
in the United States.

  "As we head into winter and brace for the effects of the new Omicron
variant, it would be negligent to shut down our government -- all in the name
of fighting a vaccine requirement designed to boost vaccination rates and
save lives," said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia.

  Congressional budget agreements have often been made at the last minute in
recent years, but as concerns grow that lawmakers may miss the deadline,
economists have warned of the potential consequences of a looming shutdown.

  A week of shutdown would cost the US economy some $6 billion, according to
a report by the Oxford Economics group.


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