BILLINGS — Tension is running high on Capitol Hill as a possible government shutdown looms, but no budgets have been passed.
Federal agencies and services could come to a screeching halt on Oct. 1 if there's no way for the government to pay its bills.
“The chances of this happening are decent," said Dr. Paul Pope, an associate professor of political science at MSU-Billings. "We're less than two weeks out, and Republicans have already failed two bills and they can't even agree within their own party.”
Anxiety around the shutdown is growing as the U.S. House of Representatives can't agree on a series of 12 funding packages that keep the government operational.
“We certainly don't know what to expect, hoping for the best, of course, and yet preparing for the worst," said Jesse Laslovich, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana.
The Department of Justice is one federal agency in Montana already making plans if the government were to shut down.
“If it's really bad, if there are significant cuts, it will affect our operations, which affects what we're able to do from a public safety standpoint throughout the state," Laslovich said. "So I'm really hopeful that both sides can work together as quickly as possible to come to an agreement on new budget.”
The last shutdown happened during the Trump administration in 2018 -2019, lasting 35 days, over a disagreement in funding for a wall on the southern border.
The struggle to pass funding now comes as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is at odds with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans hoping for deep cuts in the new budget.
Those are cuts Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale would like to see.
"We need to focus our attention on passing the appropriation bills, which provides transparency on what is being spent on government," Rosendale, a Republican representing eastern Montana, told MTN on Aug. 28, before he returned to Congress following the August recess.
"It gives us the ability to remove funding for some of the policies and, quite frankly, remove funding from part of the agencies that had been weaponized against American people."
When asked for examples of agencies, Rosendale mentioned the Department of Justice and FBI, amongst others.
"When we see the IRS show up at a gun store in Great Falls with AR-15s, that's a weaponization of our government. So we need to make sure that that type of conduct isn't going to continue. And the only way that we can make sure that that type of conduct doesn't continue is to do it through the purse strings," Rosendale said.
Before his return to Congress in September, Rosendale told MTN he would vote against a continuing resolution, a measure that could temporarily fund the government if McCarthy didn't draw a hard line on funding.
"My question is, if we were going to use a continuing resolution and an omnibus bill to fund government instead of the appropriations bills, that is exactly the way that Nancy Pelosi funded government. And so if I don't see any difference in those different speakers, then that's a problem," Rosendale said.