President Joe Biden’s top budget official said she was concerned the U.S. government will partially shut down this month with Congress and the White House deadlocked over border security and spending levels.
“I’m typically optimistic. Don’t mark me down as optimistic this morning,” Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Friday at a breakfast in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Young called the task of writing spending bills before the Jan. 20 shutdown deadline “daunting” and said more conservative Republicans were demanding a shutdown.
“The rhetoric concerns me,” she added. “While leadership understands this is a bad path, can they hold back the floodgates?”
The White House and Republicans are at odds over border security and immigration policy, with GOP lawmakers demanding changes in exchange for approving additional aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion. The impasse has tied up additional funds for Israel, Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security, which were part of an emergency
The fight over border policy is also dragging into broader questions over spending with the federal government now weeks away from a potential partial shutdown after getting to the brink twice in 2023 — at the end of September and again in November.
The chances of a Jan. 20 shutdown are high because new Speaker Mike Johnson has vowed not to pass any more stopgap pending bills to bide time. The departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development would shut down that day with the rest of the government closing Feb. 3.
The situation on the southwest U.S. border has become one of Biden’s top challenges in his reelection bid. Republicans have seized on the crisis, saying Biden has not done enough to stem the rise in migrants. Polls show the issue is a liability for his campaign.
Young said the White House wants border talks to be kept separate from the shutdown.
On Wednesday, Johnson joined other lawmakers to see the situation firsthand at the border in Eagle Pass, Texas. The speaker is seeking direct talks with Biden on Ukraine aid and border policy, an idea Young appeared cool to on Friday.
“There have been talks for weeks,” she said. “This is not serious.”
“It’s a long trip to the White House for something that can be done right next door,” Young said, urging Johnson to get involved in discussions on the Senate side.
Talks on funding the government are hung up on the top-line funding level for fiscal 2024.
The debt ceiling agreement brokered by Young set caps for the year and included a so-called side deal that would allow a set of $70 billion in accounting moves to be employed to spare agencies most cuts. House Republicans have said they reject the side deal negotiated by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and want a cap of $1.59 trillion without the accounting moves.
Young signaled Biden is willing to accelerate $20 billion cuts to Internal Revenue Service funds given Biden had secured an $80 infusion over 10 years for tax enforcement.
Asked about whether the White House is willing to alter the side deal, Young said “the leaders are talking.”
“I won’t get ahead of what they are discussing,” she said.
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