A government shutdown in the US could lead to significant delays at airports and long-term effects on the air traffic control industry, the White House has warned, as the government heads towards the end of the fiscal year without a funding deal. 

President Joe Biden’s White House said that thousands of air traffic controllers, security officers, Federal Aviation Administration employees and Transportation Security Administration staff could be forced to return to work, as essential workers, without getting paid if no deal is made before September 30.

The potential shutdown has come around after members of the Republican Party, which leads the US House of Representatives, refused to move forward with a previously agreed budget deal over disagreements on issues such as foreign aid for Ukraine. 

As the party holds a slim majority in the House, the Republicans who will not agree to the deal have been able to stop House leader Kevin McCarthy from putting forward a vote on the budget, meaning he has been trying to get President Biden to negotiate on a new deal.

The White House said: “Extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country, including risking significant delays for travellers and forcing air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Officers to work without pay.”

In addition to the short-term delays caused by troubles with staffing, a shutdown could also have a knock-on effect on the future of air traffic control staffing as training for new controllers, needed to fill a backlog, would be temporarily halted. 

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Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg emphasised the need to avoid a shutdown, saying: “For one thing, it would stop the hiring and training of air traffic controllers at the exact moment when America recognises we need more, not less when it comes to support for air traffic control.” 

During the last and longest-ever, partial shutdown at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019, many security workers either called in sick or resigned, leading a number of airports, such as George Bush International in Houston, Texas, to close some of their terminals. 

While the Senate has brought forward a bipartisan “continuing resolution” bill in an attempt to bring in temporary federal funding for an extra month, this also risks being hampered by opposition from some Senate Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul. 

Paul spoke to Fox News saying: “I will not allow my consent to let them push through more money for Ukraine, particularly when they have the gall to tell us they’re going to pay Ukrainian Government workers while our workers go unpaid.”