Shutdown showdown resolved in 11th hour

After a tense standoff, Congress has passed legislation to keep the government funded through mid-February. There will be no major disruption to critical government services at this time.

Democrats in the Senate spent the first week of December attempting to reach an agreement with their Republican counterparts to avoid a possible government shutdown. Congress was seeking a continuing resolution, which is a type of temporary funding that can keep the government funded for a limited amount of time. 

Democrats hoped for a clean stopgap through January and the GOP sought to have current funding levels extended to February or later. Democrats want a shorter-term solution so that they can avoid a shutdown and get back to passing new spending. Republicans hope to keep spending at current levels for longer to delay the Biden administration’s budgetary ambitions. This would be detrimental for people living with HIV, as the Biden administration’s proposed funding would increase funding to most major HIV programs, including Ryan White funding. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-Wv.,  told reporters on Nov. 29 that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still wants Democrats to use reconciliation, a lengthy process that was the subject of intense debate back in October of this year when Congress raised the debt ceiling. Reconciliation would allow Democrats to do things such as raising the debt ceiling with a simple majority, allowing Republicans to essentially absolve themselves of responsibility while putting Democratic spending under scrutiny. In short, Republicans want Democrats to deal with the issue on their own—and take responsibility for increasing the national debt.

Late on Dec. 2, both the House and Senate passed a stopgap continuing resolution to ensure the federal government could remain open through Feb. 18. This will only push the problem down the road.

The October agreement reached by Congress only freed up enough money to pay the government’s bills through Dec. 3, leaving Democrats scrambling to solve the problem again. Lawmakers were able to prevent a prolonged government shutdown for now, but will be faced with this issue again come Feb. 2022. 

A short-term shutdown might have few noticeable effects for everyday Americans, but a longer one could have more far-reaching implications, including the furloughing of millions of federal employees. However, come February, we are likely to again see a number of Republican Senators threaten to delay its passage over the issue of President Biden’s vaccine mandate.

AIDS United’s Policy Department will continue to monitor movement on the passage of the budget and keep those living with and impacted by HIV aware of these issues.