WASHINGTON – Congress is hurtling closer to a government shutdown that threatens to furlough Minnesota's federal workforce as Democrats rush to find a solution before funding runs out Thursday at midnight.
The party narrowly holds control of both chambers of Congress but so far has failed to send legislation to Democratic President Joe Biden that would avert a shutdown.
"It's hard to have a conversation about the impact when we are diligently working to make sure there is no shutdown," Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar said outside the Capitol on Monday night. "We know that from previous shutdowns Minnesotans have been drastically impacted and we're doing everything to make sure that there is no shutdown so no Minnesotan suffers from it."
It is unclear how many federal government workers in Minnesota would be affected. Minnesota has about 17,000 federal civilian employees, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, who said that number doesn't include postal and military personnel. A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service said in an e-mail that "operations will not be interrupted in the event of a government shutdown, and all post offices will remain open for business as usual."
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said a shutdown could impact "services for our veterans, Social Security checks and the paychecks of federal workers across the country, including Minnesota."
The House passed short-term funding legislation aimed at avoiding a shutdown last week. The House bill also included a measure to suspend the debt limit, which sparked Republican pushback on another crisis likely to challenge lawmakers in the coming weeks. House Republicans voted against the legislation, which cleared the chamber on a party-line vote.
"Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House — so whether we avoid a disastrous shutdown is really up to them," Republican Rep. Pete Stauber said in a statement Tuesday.
"It is unfortunate that with government funding expiring in two days, all Democrats are focused on is passing their reckless $5.5 trillion tax-and-spend spree."
On Monday, the funding bill failed to overcome GOP opposition in the Senate where 60 votes are needed to advance most legislation. The GOP blockade came after Republican leader Mitch McConnell chastised Democrats for including the debt measure and offered a legislative alternative he said would prevent a federal government shutdown.
"The Democratic leader, the speaker of the House and the president of the United States have had 10 weeks to plan for funding the government and addressing the debt limit," McConnell said during a floor speech. "There never had to be one ounce of drama to any of this. Any drama here is self-created by the Democrats. Republicans continue to try to help our Democratic friends avoid multiple new crises of their own making."
The rejection of the House bill in the Senate left Democrats scrambling to avoid an embarrassing setback during the first year of Joe Biden's presidency as pressure built in Washington.
"If Senate Republicans prevail, and the federal government were to shut down and fail to pay its bills, this would have disastrous consequences for Minnesotans, our country, and the economy," Democratic Sen. Tina Smith said in a statement.
"Democrats will not allow this to happen, and we will do everything in our power to protect Americans from this outrageous and irresponsible action."
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum blasted Republicans, pointing to the legislation that House Democrats passed last week.
"These Trump Republicans in Congress apparently want government offices closed, federal employees furloughed, critical services for constituents and businesses stopped, and our economy to take a hit," McCollum, who leads the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said in a statement. "This Republican shutdown will be a senselessly destructive political act, and if not stopped, the American people will pay the price."
A spokesperson for Minnesota Management and Budget said the state agency is closely monitoring the situation.
The end-of-the-month deadline has become an urgent issue during a busy week for Biden's legislative agenda.
A House vote is due Thursday on the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August, while concerns over the debt limit are likely to extend into October.
Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559