Get free updates on US politics & policy
Subscribe to the myFT Daily Digest email to receive the latest US politics & policy news every morning.
A 36-year-old former restaurateur who gained notoriety by entering Congress with a gun to assert her constitutional right to bear arms, a Florida lawyer who saw a resurgence in his political career after the authorities dropped an ongoing investigation into alleged sex trafficking, and a Donald Trump loyalist from Georgia, who has recently aligned more closely with party leadership but has suddenly become agitated on Capitol Hill.
These individuals, along with a dozen or so lesser-known Republicans in the House of Representatives, mostly staunch conservatives with hardline views on immigration and federal spending, are willing to push the United States to the brink of another budget crisis by halting government funding for the world’s largest economy.
These rebels are the modern-day equivalent of the Tea Party conservatives who caused several budget crises during the presidency of Barack Obama, including a 16-day government shutdown in October 2013.
Some consider them to be the Republican version of the Democratic party’s “squad” of left-wing representatives. However, unlike the squad, which aimed to pull the Democratic party towards a more radical policy direction, these Republicans are using their leverage to bring the government to a standstill.
This scenario may occur by Sunday, resulting in millions of unpaid individuals and cuts to funding for Ukraine’s war. Basic operations, such as those in US federal parks and museums, as well as the collection of labor market data, would come to a halt.
Goldman Sachs estimates that the shutdown would reduce quarterly annualized GDP growth by 0.2% for each week it continues. The previous shutdown, which lasted from late December 2018 to late January 2019, lasted 35 days.
The mechanics that could lead to a government shutdown this weekend are complex, as are the politics involved. Congress and the White House need to renew funding for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Sunday. However, lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement on the legislation or even a stop-gap measure to maintain current funding levels.
Hardline Republicans are demanding significant cuts to government agencies, increased border enforcement, and reduced aid to Ukraine in exchange for their support. However, this is unacceptable to Democrats and even some mainstream Republicans, resulting in an unresolved standoff.
This is a crucial moment for Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Speaker. He must decide whether to align with the rebels, leading to an extended shutdown that could damage the party’s national reputation, or strike a deal with Democrats that may prompt hardliners to remove him from his position. With a slim Republican majority in the House, the rebels hold power, leaving McCarthy with limited room for maneuver.