Without a Speaker, the Federal Budget Hangs in the Balance

With Speaker McCarthy removed from his position and the stop-gap measure set to expire on November 17, what does this mean for the approval of the 2024 federal budget?

On September 30, the United States government narrowly avoided a government shutdown as Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a bill that granted a 45 day extension to approve the 2024 federal budget. As noted by The New York Times, this short-term solution granted funding to keep the federal government operational and $16 billion towards disaster relief- but it came with an unexpected outcome: the ousting of now former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). 

The unprecedented removal of the House Speaker left the House of Representatives in an unpredictable state, with a little over a month to not only select new leadership, but also finalize and approve the federal budget for 2024. The process to elect a Speaker has shown to be even more difficult than when Speaker McCarthy was elected at the beginning of the year. As the votes for the new Speaker drag on, the federal budget still remains up in the air, and a government shutdown seems likely. With November 17th fast approaching, what if the House of Representatives is unable to elect a new Speaker? What will happen if the federal budget does not get approved? What would this mean for government agencies and programs? 

As long as the Speaker position is vacant, Congress is unable to pass a federal budget for 2024 or pass an extension to give them more time, meaning that the government will shutdown come mid-November. While vital services could continue, like most of those provided by  Veterans Affairs and the Food and Drug Administration, many others including the Smithsonian Institutions and National Park Service would need to close operations (source). 

Additionally, government and federal agencies would need to designate “essential workers” - employees who would need to continue to report to work, but without pay until after the government shutdown is resolved. Each agency has the ability to designate their own essential workers, with plans widely varying. Senators & Congressmen however, will continue to be paid through the shutdown (source).

Assistance programs like Social Security and Medicare would still operate, but a government shutdown may start to strain operations due to the impact on the agencies that run these programs. Traditionally Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments are uninterrupted (source).  

The last government shutdown in 2018 lasted 36 days. Many fear that the government will be unable to elect a new Speaker of the House and pass a federal budget in a few short weeks leading to a longer government shutdown later this year into 2024. But, If the last stopgap is any indication, the road to keep the government open is rocky, but we'll probably get there.

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