As Govt Shutdown Looms, McConnell, Scalise, Feinstein Face Big Health Questions

The U.S. Senate returned to work Tuesday, but the U.S. House of Representatives is still out for another week. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on another potential government shutdown.

Once again, the White House and Congress are facing difficult negotiations over funding the government. Top lawmakers in both chambers are now turning to a stopgap funding package – a typical strategy to give the lawmakers time to iron out a long-term agreement.

The deadline for a new budget is Oct. 1, but despite efforts to pass several appropriations bills, the two sides are far apart.

House Republicans are calling for spending cuts, which the Biden administration resists. Without a deal, some parts of the government could start shutting down in October.

President Biden’s Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo contends that business leaders fear the impact of more uncertainty on the economy.

“These sorts of disruptions that are mainly driven by politics,” she said, “it’s a challenge for the economy and has the potential to set us back. So I do hope that there will be a speedy resolution.”

Last week, Biden proposed a continuing resolution to keep spending unchanged and the government open until a broader agreement is reached.

Time is running short for Congress to act. The House is scheduled to meet for just 11 days before the government’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, leaving little room to maneuver.

Health Concerns About Aging Lawmakers

Meanwhile, questions regarding the health of three lawmakers are in the news. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, faces questions about his ability to continue as the top Senate Republican after he has frozen up twice during news conferences in the last two months since falling and suffering a concussion in March. During the event in Kentucky last week, he fell silent for roughly 30 seconds after a question from a reporter.
Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, said Thursday that McConnell is cleared to work. But the question of whether McConnell — the longest-serving party leader in Senate history — can continue as Republican leader has sparked intense speculation.

In an update Tuesday, Monahan told McConnell in a letter, “There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA, or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease. There are no changes recommended in treatment protocols as you continue recovery from your March 2023 fall.”

And the health of California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, has visibly wavered in recent months after she was hospitalized for shingles earlier this year. She suffered a fall at her San Francisco home in August and visited the hospital for testing.

Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the No. 2 Republican, disclosed last week that he has been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma and is undergoing treatment.

Scalise, 57, said he will continue to serve and described the cancer as “very treatable.”

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