Is a government shutdown imminent? Here’s what Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told WTOP

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is weighing in on the possibility of a partial government shutdown should Congress fail to pass a budget by Friday as some lawmakers remain optimistic about getting a deal done in time.

Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to examine worldwide threats at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)(AP/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

A meeting at the Oval Office may have laid the groundwork for a possible solution on Tuesday.

Security at the southern border, along with funding for Israel and Ukraine remain the major concerns — and House Republicans have voiced their opposition. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said participants in the meeting told House Speaker Mike Johnson to “get it done.”

Warner spoke with WTOP anchors Michelle Basch and John Domen on Wednesday morning about the state of the deal.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner talks about the possibility of a shutdown on WTOP

Michelle Basch: Is it possible that this shutdown can be avoided?

Sen. Mark Warner: It’s possible. But I gotta tell you, if all your listeners are saying, ‘I’ve heard this program before,’ they got a right to be upset. This is crazy.

The federal fiscal year, we’re supposed to start Oct. 1, we’re now virtually at March, nothing can get passed, it seems, out of the House of Representatives. The remarkable thing is the speaker keeps kowtowing to a series of these far right members who are never going to vote for the budget in the first place. So the fact that he’s only got a two-vote margin, means he’s going to have to get Democratic votes. We’ve got the four entities, the House Democrats, the Senate Democrats, the Senate Republicans are all in agreement. And unfortunately, he is being held up by a group of extreme folks on the end.

And those of us in the Washington area, obviously, we are more affected by a government shutdown than any other part of the country. And it’s just the height of irresponsibility that we’re still at this exact same situation, again.

John Domen: The latest report coming out this morning suggests that all these agencies could see their (funding) deadlines sort of just pushed back between a week to two weeks … come the month of March. Is that what you’re hearing? What is the likelihood that something is going to get done to at least extend things another couple of weeks and figure out some way to keep negotiating?

Sen. Mark Warner: I think what’s called the CR will probably be the path. But it’s again, the amount of money that we waste each time we go into a CR rather than full funding, the amount of time that you think about folks like the air traffic controllers — they have to start (planning) a couple of weeks before a potential shutdown. Going through all these procedures, you have to prepare. You go by agency by agency. And I’m sure there are federal workers and contractors across the region who can echo this, if they’re listening.

I had a bill … called the “Stop Stupidity Act.” So that every time if we had a government shutdown, the government would still work … The only people who wouldn’t get paid would be Congress, their staff, the White House and its staff.

Michelle Basch: Any final thoughts before we move along?

Sen. Mark Warner: The final thought is the government shutdown is critical, but almost more important: We’ve got a historic decision and choice to make whether we’re going to stand by our allies in Ukraine, or allow Putin to be successful.

Again, this is a situation where if the bill came to the floor in the House — it passed the Senate by 70 votes — it would get 300 votes in the House. Ukrainians have pushed back Russia for two years because Putin will not stop at Ukraine and may look to the Baltic states or Poland, which are NATO countries, that would be a disaster. I feel almost more important than the shutdown is making sure we get this Ukraine aid passed.

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