PhotoDon't look now, but Congress is about to play chicken with the White House over keeping the lights on once again. This time, the shoe is on the other foot.

In the most recent past, government shutdowns occurred when Republicans controlled Congress and the Democrats controlled the White House. Back in the mid 1990s, the GOP-led Congress locked horns with the Clinton White House on spending. After neither side would budge, the government shut down -- twice in three years.

Now there is a Republican in the White House and Republicans control Congress. So what's the problem?

The problem is the GOP is divided and the Democrats are in no mood to help. Congress has to pass a budget, or a continuing resolution (CR), by Friday or the government can't spend money.

Except, it sort of can.

Essential services continue

In past government shutdowns -- and there have been plenty of them -- essential services continued. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security stay on the job. Social Security checks also still go out.

At the same time, if you're still waiting for your tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service and the government shuts down, you might have to wait a while longer, until it's back up and running.

Consumers receiving food stamps will continue to receive them. That's an entitlement that doesn't get its money from the annual budget.

But if you're planning a visit to a National Monument or Park next week, you might have to change your plans. These venues will close if the government does.

If you're applying for a passport for an international trip, a government shutdown could interrupt the process and might require you to postpone your trip.

Why the threat?

Why is there even a threat of a government shutdown? One reason, really. President Trump had insisted that the spending bill contain appropriations to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico. Democrats in Congress said they would oppose any spending measure containing funds for that purpose. Trump would need eight Democrats to pass the spending measure in the Senate.

Earlier this week, Trump backed away from his demand, saying he could wait until October for the wall money. That could allow some Democrats to vote in favor of the spending measure and avert a government shutdown. Only, they might not.

As the deadline approaches, the odds of a shutdown are going down. But with partisan bitterness still simmering in the nation's capital, nothing is certain.


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