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Would a government shutdown in December completely stop fourth stimulus check negotiations?

Congress has until midnight on Friday to pass a raft of funding bills or face the prospect of a government shutdown, a huge embarrassment for the Democrats.

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Would a government shutdown in December completely stop fourth stimulus check negotiations?
NICHOLAS KAMM AFP

As it stands the government will go into shutdown from midnight on Friday evening, unless Congress can agree a short-term spending package to provide funding for federal agencies.

Every year Congress has to approve 12 funding bills but has so far been unable to do so, leaving open the prospect of a shutdown. In previous shutdowns the government agencies have been able to prioritise the remaining funds to ensure that certain essential services can remain open.

Even if the government does go into shutdown it will almost certainly affect the legislative actions of Congress and draw attention away from other matter. However there are currently no plans to pass a fourth stimulus check.

A shutdown would eat up more time in the congressional agenda and serve to further delay the passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better bill. The President has been looking to secure the crucial remaining votes of moderate Democrats Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and a lengthy shutdown would provide a major distraction.

Biden could be embarrassed by shutdown delays

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill which will provide funding for the federal government through mid-February, passed with a near-party line vote of 221-212. Only one Republican voted for the proposals in the House and the lack of bipartisan agreement could cause problems in the Senate.

For the bill to be passed before the Friday midnight deadline all 100 senators must agree to circumvent Senate rules and hold a vote, something that is far from guaranteed.

A number of hard-line conservative senators - Mike Lee, Roger Marshall, Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz – have insisted that a vote be held on their proposal to stop federal money being used to enforce the vaccine mandates introduced recently by Biden. Vaccine mandates have become a deeply partisan issue and certain GOP members appear willing to blow up the funding proposals to disrupt the mandate.

On Thursday Sen. Roger Marshall warned: "The federal government needs to feel the pressure of what a vaccine mandate really does.”

Failure to agree a deal and allow the government to go into shutdown would be a huge embarrassment for Biden and the Democrats, given that they currently hold unified power in Washington. Biden’s failure to pass the remainder of his Build Back Better agenda could cost his party in the 2022 mid-terms and he will be desperate to secure a legislative victory before the New Year.

However despite the precarious situation, Biden seemed unfazed speaking to reporters at the Nation Institutes of Health in Maryland on Thursday.

The President told those gathered that he does not believe there will be a shutdown: “Look, I don’t believe that will happen. We have everything in place to be able to make sure there’s not a shutdown.”

He continued: “I spoke with Mitch McConnell, I spoke with Schumer, there is a plan in place, unless somebody decides to be totally erratic, and I don’t think that will happen, so I don’t think there will be a shutdown.”