WASHINGTON — The pay for millions of federal workers could stop in a few days if a funding agreement is not passed by Congress.
The issue is in the House of Representatives where a number of Republicans are demanding federal spending cuts.
Lawmakers only have until this weekend to reach a government funding deal for the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. An agreement would prevent millions of Americans, including military families from seeing their paychecks paused.
If not, and there’s a government shutdown, workers deemed “essential” would be forced to keep working without being paid. Other federal workers would be furloughed for the time being without pay.
“I get annoyed that they can’t just get along and compromise,” tourist Danny Scruggs said.
White House press secretary Karinne Jean Pierre said meeting the deadline is imperative, especially for families using federal assistance.
“We just heard the Secretary of Agriculture lay out what will happen to women and children. Seven million women and children who are part of the W.I.C. program across the country,” she said at a press briefing Monday. “Seven million if this shutdown happens, and this is indeed a Republican shutdown.”
Congress often relies on a so-called continuing resolution to provide the money necessary to fund government agencies while budget talks continue.
Hardline Republicans are against any stopgap solution threatening to keep the government shut down until Congress negotiates a dozen separate bills needed to fund the government, an effort that typically takes until December, at the earliest.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said holdouts within his own party are starting to make concessions on spending,
“So let’s get this going,” McCarthy said. “Let’s make sure the government stays open while we finish doing our job passing all the individual bills and getting this done.”
Under a shutdown, affected areas include health programs, Social Security, and Medicare, among others.
People applying for government services like clinical trials, firearm permits, and passports could also see delays.
In 2018, the last and longest government shutdown lasted five weeks under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
At the time, federal workers like Marilyn Carrothers resorted to paying monthly bills with credit cards.
“Our mortgage, our gas, electric, trash, water bill,” Carrothers said.
Lindsey Cormack, director of the Diplomacy Lab at Stevens Institute of Technology said a shutdown won’t save money.
We’ve done this two times for an extended period in the last 10 years, and each time it ends up costing more to shut it down and reopen it, than it would to just vote on a continuing resolution,” she said.
If there is a shutdown, it will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1 if Congress is not able to pass a funding plan that President Biden signs into law.
The president and members of Congress will continue to work and get paid. But any of their nonessential staff will be furloughed.
While most federal employees will receive back pay once the government re-opens, some contract employees like housekeeping and food service workers who keep government buildings running, may never see compensation from lost paychecks.