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Government shutdown: Courts could close, Congress bills likely to fail

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The federal court system warned that it will soon run out of funds and will be forced to pare its operations down to “critical” functions, as the record government shutdown rolls into its thirty-third day.

Congress is preparing to debate two bills which aim to reopen the government, but the prospects for both seem poor. Both bills come before the Senate for a vote tomorrow, but neither party appears to have a proposal which could break the deadlock.

Courts officials sounded a warning siren on Tuesday. The Administrative Office of the US Courts said its contingency funding plans can only continue until January 31, having been extended twice already.

It said that courts would be reduced to “mission critical” operations, with civil cases will be the most affected. Each court will determine how many staff members it needs to keep, with the majority expected to be furloughed.

It said that courts have already cut down on expenses like hiring and travel, but will need to make far deeper cuts soon.

Read more: The warnings are getting starker: Trump’s government shutdown is becoming catastrophic for the economy

It said the prior strategy of using other small pools of money, and cutting where they could, was a “temporary stopgap” that cannot be repeated if the shutdown continues into February.

It said that courts would still be able to conduct criminal trials.

Bills to reopen the government look dead on arrival

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the chamber after talking about his bill on Tuesday.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Two competing proposals to reopen the government are expected to fail in the Senate on Thursday, based on the publicly-stated positions of both parties.

One of the votes will be on a Republican bill endorsed by President Donald Trump, which asks for the $5.7 billion Trump wants for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

In exchange it offers temporary protection for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, as well as other immigrants.

Democrats have already rejected the deal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “unacceptable,” while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described Trump’s strategy as “hostage-taking.”

Read more: The government shutdown may force Trump to make a nightmare choice between his border wall and the economy

As such, the plan is unlikely to get the 60 votes it needs to pass the Senate, and if it did it would almost certainly be rejected by the Democrat-controlled House.

The other plan is backed by Democrats, and has already passed the House, where Democrats have control.

It would fund the government until February 8, allowing both parties to negotiate on funding for the border wall without the extra crisis of a government shutdown.

But the bill does not include any new money for the wall, which Trump has said is his red line for ending the shutdown.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN on Tuesday that he does not support the bill.

This means the stalemate between the two parties is likely to continue.

FBI warnings, Coast Guard using food bank, and a potential $5.7 billion hit to the economy: other effects of the shutdown

  • FBI agents gave shocking warnings about how the shutdown could affect safety in the US, saying that the lapse in funds means indictments over violent crimes are not happening and investigations have stalled.
  • The Coast Guard leader said the shutdown has forced some members “to rely on food pantries and donations.”
  • The shutdown could end up costing more than the $5.7 billion Trump wants for the border wall by the end of this week.

  • 1 in 10 airport security screeners missed work over the holiday weekend, almost triple what it was on the same day last year.

  • The government has been left powerless in dealing with product recalls, potentially putting customers in dangerous situations.
  • Schools are worried about being able to feed children their lunches if the shutdown continues.
  • Cybersecurity experts say the shutdown is putting the US is at greater risk of attack.
  • Secret Service agents are working with no pay, with some saying they are struggling to make ends meet job performance could be affected.
  • National parks are facing piles of trash and damaged trees.
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