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Disarray in Congress could affect your travel plans

A potential government shutdown has Howard students expressing their concerns about traveling home for the upcoming holidays.

United States Capitol building from the east side. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

“Your flight has been delayed” are some of the worst words anyone can hear when traveling. Starting next month, those words could be a reality for many passengers due to a possible government shutdown.

Last week, the government passed a resolution to extend the timeline of preventing a shutdown for 45 days, providing the government with extra funding for that time. Negotiations seemed to be making progress despite tensions among House Republicans.

That was until last Tuesday, when representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL)’s motion to vacate the Speaker role passed the House in a 216-210 vote.

With the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the hands of Gaetz and the far-right Freedom Caucus, the U.S. House of Representatives is scrambling to find a new leader starting this week, with an upcoming deadline next month to avert a government shutdown.

Gaetz’s motion to vacate comes as no surprise, as the Florida congressman had criticized McCarthy during the latter’s confirmation vote for Speaker in January. Gaetz ramped up rhetoric against McCarthy last month with perceived failures to meet Gaetz’ agenda to address budgetary needs and incriminate President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

“The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you [McCarthy] into immediate, total compliance or remove you pursuant to motion to vacate the chair,” Gaetz said on the House floor on Sept. 12. “We’ve had no vote on term limits or on balanced budgets… no full release of the January 6 tapes, as you promised. There’s been insufficient accountability for the Biden crime family.”

McCarthy’s ouster undoubtedly slows down the process of negotiating plans to avert a shutdown, but the path of the negotiations is unclear. 

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Between speculating whether the new Speaker would be able to negotiate with the House or Gaetz, or another congressmember filing another motion to vacate the new Speaker, there is no definite answer as to what could happen in the next month. 

Gaetz, however, sees McCarthy’s ouster as an optimistic opportunity.

On Thursday, Gaetz posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Our work is not over. We must put the House on a new and better path… The McCarthy Era is over. Let’s not dwell on it. Let’s move forward with a better Speaker. And let’s keep winning.” 

If the House doesn’t get its act together by Nov. 17, by either passing the appropriations bills required or another funding extension, the government will go into shutdown.

Under a government shutdown, many federal workers are furloughed, or suspended without pay for the time being. However, essential workers are still required to work through a shutdown. Once the shutdown ends, federal employees should receive payment.

The impacts of a shutdown would hit multiple sectors of the economy, one of the more noticeable ones being travel.

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Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, said in a Sep. 27 briefing that a possible government shutdown would prevent the government from fulfilling its hiring quota of air traffic controllers.

“We finally have that headed in the right direction, hiring 1,500 controllers this year. Our budget calls for 1,800 controllers to be hired next year, but that can’t happen if we get stopped in our tracks with training,” Buttigieg said. “At the end of the day, that means more shortages and more outages, and that can contribute to cancellations and delays.”

The U.S. Travel Association, a national organization which promotes “travel to and within the United States,” released a press statement saying a shutdown would cost the travel industry “as much as $140 million a day.”

The impact on air travel, specifically, is estimated at $36 million a day, according to a Tourism Economics study.

In the 2019 government shutdown, it took about two weeks for effects to impact passengers. As essential workers began to miss work, the airline industry became backed up.

Howard students seem to be concerned about the shutdown, as their flights over the next couple months for trips over the holidays could be impacted.

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Trevor Johnson, an economics major from Franklin, Tennessee, plans on traveling home over Thanksgiving.

“That is my main transportation back home. If that [the shutdown] did happen, that would be a major problem for me. How am I going to get home?” Johnson said.

Johnson, who drives, doesn’t have his car with him this time around.

“If my flight’s canceled, I don’t have a car with me. But my parents would come pick me up,” he said, who live 10 hours away in Franklin.

Christion Billy, a junior communications major from Hayward, California, said she anticipates longer lines in the airports being a problem during a shutdown.

“Sometimes, if I get to the airport late, I’m still able to make my flight. But now, if I’m late, there’s no chance I’m gonna make that flight because of how long the lines are,” Billy said.

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Prince Martin, a sophomore TV and film major from Iwakuni, Japan, plans on spending winter break away in Hawaii.

“I have a very close person that I’m supposed to go with to Hawaii to stay there because that’s where she’s from,” Martin said. “I need to find a place to stay over winter since I can’t go home back to my family.”

On the communications site The Dig, Howard released an announcement on Friday about campus operations during the government shutdown.

For applicable international students, the operation of immigration services will vary. Operations with the government is also a double-edged sword.

“Consular services with the U.S. State Department will remain operational – both domestically and abroad – while funds remain available. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may have delays in processing applications for status changes as it will only carry out exempt activities such as law enforcement,” Howard said in its announcement.

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus

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