WASHINGTON, D.C. — Barring a miracle in the House of Representatives with the clock ticking down to the Oct. 1 deadline, a shutdown of the federal government is all but certain, and the impacts are sure to be felt by many.
Massachusetts 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lori Trahan said in a phone call Friday morning that the House appeared very unlikely to reach a deal before the deadline at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. At that point, federal government funding and services across many sectors will be cut off.
“I went through the longest shutdown in our nation’s history in 2019 as I was being sworn in,” said Trahan, a Democrat. “It got really bad for thousands of families. Federal employees were all worried about their families and whether they could pay their bills.”
That government shutdown lasted 35 days, during which hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed or required to work without knowing when they would be paid next, but it was only a partial shutdown. When the looming deadline passes, we will be in a full government shutdown, which Trahan said will be much worse for more people.
“In Massachusetts we have nearly 15,000 active duty and reserve servicemembers who will be working without pay — 1.2 million Massachusetts residents will have their food assistance jeopardized,” said Trahan.
Food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC will be cut off, Trahan said, which will affect families across the district from Lowell to Fitchburg. On top of that, the Small Business Administration will halt small business loans for the duration of the shutdown.
The reasoning behind the impending shutdown is complicated, but it stems largely from two deals that were struck earlier this year, both by Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The first deal was one McCarthy made with a faction of far-right Republicans in the House to secure the votes to become speaker in the first place in January after 15 votes had to be taken. The deal included a commitment to reduce government spending in certain areas opposed by the far-right caucus, as well as a provision that would allow any one member of the House to call a vote to remove and replace McCarthy as speaker.
The second deal took place in the spring, and it was with President Joe Biden in an effort to avoid the nation’s first-ever debt default. This deal left the far-right caucus wanting deeper budget cuts, for which they are exerting political pressure on McCarthy to go back on his deal with Biden by threatening his speakership.
“The remarkable thing about this week is that we could have taken up the continuing resolution. Senate Republicans and Democrats and the president were all aligned on this bipartisan continuing resolution to keep the government open and funding it to give us time to pass these appropriations bills,” said Trahan. “House Republicans are on an island right now, passing appropriations bills that have no chance of passing the Senate.”
If McCarthy brought forward the bipartisan Senate resolution, Trahan said it would have bipartisan support in the House, but then McCarthy would lose his position as speaker.
“It all rests on whether he cares more about his speakership, or the country,” said Trahan.
With the relative frequency of government shutdowns in recent years, Trahan said that they hurt the ability of communities across the country like Lowell and Fitchburg to invest in their own revitalization.
“In a time when we are making significant investments in these communities, I make no apologies about bringing back federal funds from the infrastructure bill, and the CHIPS and Science Act, but this just hurts us,” said Trahan. “When you shut down every five years, like Republicans have done since 2013, you erode the ability to attract private investment.”
For those in her district who may be struggling and unable to get the assistance and services they normally receive during the shutdown, Trahan urged them to call her offices at 978-459-0101.
The odds of a deal being reached in time fell even further Friday afternoon after 21 House Republicans joined all House Democrats in rejecting a proposal by McCarthy that included steep spending cuts of nearly 30% to many agencies and severe border security provisions. Democrats rejected the steep cuts as too extreme, while the far-right caucus called them insufficient.
A clearly agitated McCarthy left the House chamber. “It’s not the end yet; I’ve got other ideas,” he told reporters.
Republican leaders planned to convene behind closed doors late Friday to assess next steps.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.