US government heads to shutdown as Congress misses funding deadline for second time in a month

Jeremy B White
Congress struggled yet again to pass a budget bill on time: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congress stumbled past a midnight funding deadline and pushed the federal government into a shutdown for the second time in less than a month.

While the Senate had reached a deal a day earlier on a measure that would lift spending caps and raise military spending, the bill stalled in the upper chamber for hours as Kentucky Republican Rand Paul held up a vote to protest increases in the federal deficit. His Republican colleagues became noticeably more frustrated as the night wore on, accusing him of grandstanding and of wasting their time.

As the hours to pass a bill dwindled, away the White House instructed the federal government to begin preparing to halt or scale back many of its functions.

The failure to pass a budget bill on time has become a familiar sight in Washington. The government shut down for three days earlier this year as Democrats blocked a bill to try and force a compromise on immigration, and Republicans pushed the government to shutter in 2013 as part of a bid to undo Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

With the deadline hours away, Mr Paul delayed a vote with a lengthy floor speech railing against what he called out-of-control government spending. He lambasted his colleagues for abandoning their commitment to reducing the deficit and warned of bottomless spending on “perpetual war”.

“How come you were against President Obama’s deficits, and then how come you’re for Republican deficits? Isn’t that the very definition of intellectual dishonesty”? the libertarian senator said.

“I think the country’s worth a debate until three in the morning,” he added.

The budget bill awaiting votes would not replace a lapsed immigration programme known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that afforded some 800,000 young immigrants protection from deportation and work permits. Donald Trump moved to end the initiative and has used the suspension to push for a larger immigration deal.

Democrats have agitated unsuccessfully to include a DACA fix as Congress has passed a series of short-term budget bills. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor earlier than a week for a record eight-plus hour speech highlighting inaction, and Democrats forced a multi-day government shutdown earlier this year by blocking a budget bill that eschewed immigration.

As Congress moved to pass a new budget bill that sidesteps the issue, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan promised that a resolution was coming.

“To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not,” Mr Ryan told reporters. “We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign.”