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A Pair Of Louisiana Reactionaries Are Steering The Country Towards A Government Shutdown Next Week

MAGA Mike & Scalise Are In Safe Gerrymandered Districts

This Bloomberg headline yesterday was, in part, misleading: House Speaker Johnson Is Running Out of Time to Avoid Shutdown. True, time is running out but to have been more accurate Erik Wasson and Mackenzie Hawkins would have substituted “Celebrate” for “Avoid.” After all, MAGA Mike never saw a shutdown he didn’t get behind and the Freedom Caucus and Trump OK-ed his out-of-nowhere Speaker bid because they understood he would do all he could to make sure there would be a shutdown.

A shutdown is exactly the kind of chaos and dysfunctuion Trump is banking on to make voters turn to him for new leadership. And no one will care— or even hear— that Chuck Schumer is blaming MAGA Mike for not working in a bipartisan way. Schumer: “In a little over a week, the federal government will shut down if Congress does not come together to pass a bipartisan extension of funding. Over the next few days, Democrats will continue talking to Republicans about finding a path forward on avoiding a shutdown that both sides support, and I earnestly hope we can reach agreement sooner rather than later.”

The problem, of course, is that Trump is insisting on a shutdown and that extremists in the House GOP Conference don’t want to work with Democrats and don’t want any kind of a compromise… and are perfectly happy to see the government shut down anyway. It’s a week from today and MAGA Mike has been wasting time voting on amendments to cut Pete Buttigieg’s and Marcia Fudge’s salary to $1 a year. Do they think Schumer is going to bring that nonsense to the Senate floor? Do they think even Republicans in the Senate would vote for it? Even enough House Republicans said they wouldn’t vote for his nonsense to force him to withdraw two appropriations bills from consideration.

MAGA Mike, a nickname Trump bestowed on him, and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, both Louisiana extremists out of touch with America, have every intention of a shutdown, even if it's poison to dozens of Republicans who don’t represent backward districts with R+14 and R+23 PVIs like MAGA Mike and Scalise do. MAGA Mike’s constituents gave Trump a 24.1 margin of victory in 2020 and Scalise’s gave him a 39 point margin. In districts like that, it doesn’t matter what they do. But in normal parts of America, it matters a great deal, including in normal parts of America that have Republican congressmembers already facing tough reelection efforts. Here are just a dozen who could be punished by their swing voter constituents for a government shutdown engineered by MAGA Mike and Scalise:

  • Anthony D’Esposito (NY) Biden won by 14.5 points

  • David Valadao (CA)- Biden won by 12.9 points

  • Mike Garcia (CA)- Biden won by 12.4

  • John Duarte (CA)- Biden won by 10.9

  • Mike Lawler (NY)- Biden won by 10.1

  • Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR)- Biden won by 8.9

  • Brandon Williams (NY)- Biden won by 7.5

  • Don Bacon (NE)- Biden won by 6.3

  • Michelle Steel (CA)- Biden won by 6.2

  • Marc Molinaro (NY)- Biden won by 4.6

  • Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)- Biden won by 4.6

  • Tom Kean (NJ)- Biden won by 3.9

And it doesn’t end there. There are dozens of Republicans in districts where Biden won more narrowly and where Trump also won narrowly. And there are cases like these:

  • Lauren Boebert (CO)- her constituents almost threw her out last time; she got by by 0.06% (546 votes out of 327,132 cast!)— and that was before her vaping and public hand-job episode at Beetlejuice!

  • Zach Nunn (IA)- squeaked by by 0.7% (1,154 votes out of 310,379 cast); Trump won by 0.3%

  • John James (MI)- barely won just 0.49% and with less than a majority; Trump won the district by 1 point.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the Blue America-endorsed candidate in a blue-leaning Oregon district, told me that "Lori Chavez-DeRemer is following the other MAGA Republican extremists, prioritizing political maneuvering, special interests, and power grabs over the safety, health, and livelihoods of our communities. A government shutdown will hurt families throughout OR-5 and across Oregon, right before the holidays. To get the government working for the people again we have to replace the party of insurrection, dysfunction, and chaos with real leadership."

Yesterday, astute congressional observers Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan wrote that MAGA Mike “spent the week talking to his members about how they prefer to solve the government funding problem. He may come to regret that decision. His leadership team certainly has. Johnson hasn’t outlined his plan to fund the government. The Louisiana Republican signaled to his leadership team that he plans to pursue some sort of two-step CR, with several spending bills expiring in December and the remainder in January. A January-February split is also under consideration, according to several senior House GOP appropriators. This approach is being referred to as a ‘laddered CR,’ and it’s confusing even to Republicans… [His] leadership team tentatively plans to go to the floor with a stopgap funding bill on Tuesday. That means he needs to post the legislation online by Saturday to remain faithful to the 72-hour rule. This leaves very little time to respond to any setbacks. The two-step CR is problematic if you want to avoid a government shutdown. Senate Republicans are breaking with Johnson on both the mechanism and timeline for a short-term funding measure… Hakeem Jeffries said his caucus would only support a clean CR. Jeffies dismissed the laddered-CR approach: ‘It’s ridiculous.’… [A] clean CR would open the floodgates to broad Democratic support.”

They also warned that Johnson’s honeymoon with the fractious GOP conference “seems like it’s coming to a rapid end, raising questions about how much leeway House Republicans are willing to give him after the Senate rejects his approach. House Republicans pulled the Transportation-HUD spending bill Tuesday night… Johnson simply doesn’t have a lot of juice to turn votes right now if he insists on passing GOP-centric bills. In sum, Johnson doesn’t have a real plan. He’s leaving everything for next week— an exceedingly risky strategy. His leadership and the rank and file are in the dark about the possible end game.”

Like I said, Sherman, Desiderio and Bresnahan are astute observers of what goes on in Congress, but none of them are imaging the unimaginable— that the Speaker of the House may want to appear that he’s paying some kind of lip service to keeping the government open but that he’s actually working to shut it down— like Trump demands.

Yesterday, NBC reported on the MAGA Mike dysfunction, manifesting as an inability to craft crucial appropriation bills that can get enough GOP votes to pass. Sahil Kapur, Scott Wong and Julie Tsirkin wrote that “it shows how ungovernable the House continues to be after right-wing Republicans ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy over complaints about his handling of government funding. ‘I don't think the Lord Jesus himself could manage this group,’ said Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX). He added that he would pray for the new speaker as the House adjourned for a long weekend. ‘We’re still dealing with the same divisions we always have had,’ said another House Republican. ‘We’re ungovernable.’”

Pre-dawn, Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan and Max Cohen wrote that the 2 weeks since Trump got MAGA Mike into the Speakers position have shown us that the days are gone “when House Republicans took difficult votes for the greater good of the party or to strengthen the speaker’s hand in a showdown with the Senate. The House is now akin to a battle royale, with every lawmaker acting purely out of self-interest… [A]fter 10 months of brutal GOP infighting that culminated in McCarthy’s ouster and in the eventual election of Johnson, a 51-year-old with very limited leadership experience, emotions remain very raw. Members are looking toward the 2024 election… and making the choice to vote however they want.”

Sherman, Bresnahan and Cohen are more sympathetic to MAGA Mike than I am. “The House Republican leadership had to pull two critical spending bills this week. Neither would’ve become law, yet both illustrated the divides in the House Republican Conference and members’ complete unwillingness to bridge them. Both moderate New York Republicans and hardline conservatives were unmoved by the leadership’s entreaties on the Transportation-HUD spending bill. New York Republicans were peeved that the bill cut too much from Amtrak and public transit, while hardliners thought it didn’t cut enough. On Thursday, the GOP leadership abruptly pulled the Financial Services-General Government spending bill when both conservatives and moderates revolted. Conservatives didn’t like that the legislation failed to explicitly ban funding for a new FBI headquarters. Moderates opposed the repeal of a provision that prohibited D.C. companies from discriminating against employees who get an abortion. Johnson and party leaders lobbied their members for two days to back the FSGG measure, only to come up short. In fact, the leadership was bested by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who whipped conservatives against the FSGG bill. ‘Us pragmatic conservatives— the guys in Biden districts— we felt like we were walked on for nine months,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) noted. He added: ‘What you’re seeing is the pragmatic conservatives, the common sense conservatives, say we’re not going to get run over anymore. It’s probably a bigger challenge for Mike— Speaker Johnson— to overcome. But we’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens.’ This dynamic is about to become much more important. The federal government will shut down in a week and Johnson has yet to unveil how he plans to fund agencies beyond Nov. 17. Other GOP leaders have been kept in the dark. Rank-and-file Republicans have been frustrated with the lack of information. We’ve been told an announcement is imminent.”

"Speakers Of The House" by Nancy Ohanian

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