White House: GOP has all the control over potential shutdown

Administration official: “The ball is completely in their court.”

The White House maintains that averting a government shutdown is entirely up to House Republicans: “The ball is completely in their court,” a White House official told CNN on Wednesday, just three days before the end-of-month funding deadline.

White House aides have been closely monitoring Capitol Hill activity and communicating with congressional leaders in recent days, as government funding is set to expire on October 1. The White House has urged House Republicans to back the Senate’s bipartisan stopgap bill to avoid a government shutdown.

When asked if a shutdown was unavoidable, President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday afternoon, “I don’t think anything in politics is inevitable.”

However, as CNN reported, even after a Senate agreement was reached, White House officials were hesitant to make predictions. Meanwhile, officials are actively preparing for a shutdown and are developing operational plans, including which White House employees will and will not be furloughed beginning October 1.

The White House has largely remained hands-off, with Biden aides generally confident that Republicans will bear the brunt of the blame if the government shuts down. This week, the president released a video in which he blamed a “small group of extreme House Republicans” who are “determined to shut down the government.”

With four days until funding expires, Senate leadership reached an agreement on Tuesday to keep the government open until November 17, with $6.2 billion in funding for Ukraine and $6 billion for domestic disasters, according to CNN. Earlier this week, a White House official stated that Biden would be “broadly supportive” of a Senate-brokered agreement, even if it only included a fraction of the $24 billion the administration was seeking to continue assisting Ukraine.

Even after that agreement was reached, White House officials maintained that the final outcome is unpredictable, owing in large part to the inability to predict House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s next moves. McCarthy, who may see a tougher package with steeper spending cuts as an antidote to his intra-party politics, has not committed to bringing a bipartisan Senate bill to a vote.

According to one administration official, the majority of Biden’s senior-most aides are expected to be designated “essential,” which means they will not be furloughed. The current round of contingency planning began in earnest on Friday, when the Office of Management and Budget began a formal process of communicating with agencies about the possibility of suspending all work deemed “non-essential.”

During previous shutdowns, employees with the title “Special Assistant to the President” – a rank that also includes access to the Navy Mess – were automatically deemed to be serving in essential roles. A White House staff and salary directory submitted to Congress in 2023 listed 97 employees with that title.

Even Biden plans to stay in Washington this weekend, which is unusual given the possibility of a government shutdown. On Friday afternoons, he usually departs for one of his Delaware homes or Camp David, but White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that he would remain in the capital.

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