The United States government is on the brink of a shutdown as the far right of the Republican Party jeopardizes final attempts at reaching a temporary budget agreement. This development raises concerns about the availability of national parks and the extent of Washington’s support for Ukraine.
If lawmakers fail to reach a deal, the shutdown would commence after midnight on Saturday (0400 GMT Sunday). This would mark the first shutdown since 2019, resulting in delayed salaries for millions of federal employees and military personnel.
The two chambers of Congress find themselves deadlocked, as a small group of House Republicans resist stopgap measures that would maintain essential services. On Friday, House Republicans rejected a plan proposed by their own leader, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, further exacerbating the growing chaos within the party as the 2024 elections approach, with former President Donald Trump hoping to make a comeback.
The White House Office of Management and Budget’s director, Shalanda Young, has expressed hope that a shutdown can be avoided if Republicans can resolve their internal divisions. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that President Joe Biden has no intention of intervening, stating that the necessary conversation must occur between Speaker McCarthy and his caucus.
In an interview with ProPublica on Friday, Biden criticized McCarthy’s actions, stating that he has made a “terrible bargain” that disregards constitutional processes in order to maintain the speakership. McCarthy, however, shifted blame onto Democrats, accusing them of obstructing a solution.
While critical government services will continue operating, a shutdown would result in the closure of the majority of national parks, including iconic locations such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Everglades, starting Sunday. Additionally, with student loan payments set to resume in October, officials have assured that key activities at the Federal Student Aid office will continue for a couple more weeks.
Nevertheless, an extended shutdown could lead to more significant disruptions. White House National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard warned that a shutdown unnecessarily puts the world’s largest economy at risk. Potential consequences that could ripple through the broader economy include air travel delays, with air traffic controllers being asked to work without pay.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also cautioned that a shutdown could impede progress on infrastructure improvements. A report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, highlighted that a government shutdown would reduce GDP by 0.2 percentage points each week, while also undermining the United States’ credibility as a commercial partner, impeding negotiations, and hindering export control enforcement capabilities.
This impending shutdown casts a growing shadow over Biden’s policy of supporting and funding Ukraine in its ongoing struggle against Russian aggression. For Republican hardliners responsible for derailing a new budget, halting aid to Ukraine is a significant objective. Although most Republican members of Congress continue to support US backing for Ukraine, the shutdown raises questions about the political feasibility of renewing the multibillion-dollar flow of assistance.