The very right wing Wall Street Journal editorial board had a warning for their party yesterday: shutting down the government to make your point is the equivalent of holding your breath until you pass out. “On their current path, however, and if they shut down the government in a stupid, futile gesture, all they’ll do is make it easier to turn the gavel over to Speaker Jeffries,” currently sitting back and watching “the Republican majority implode without having to do a thing.”
"That’s the story in Congress as House Republicans form a circular firing squad over the most basic of duties— passing an annual budget," fretted the editors. "As Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, a former Navy Seal, put it in a visit to our offices on Monday: It’s hard to govern 'when you have snipers inside the perimeter.' He means fellow Republicans… [T]he only way House Republicans can accomplish anything is by sticking together. If they can rally 218 votes to pass something, they have a chance to win policy victories. If they can’t, they give the advantage to Democrats. It really is that simple. That’s how Republicans managed to extract lower spending levels from President Biden in this year’s debt-ceiling talks. Speaker Kevin McCarthy had no leverage until the House passed a bill to raise the limit with certain conditions. Once he did, Biden was forced to negotiate. That victory wasn’t earth-shaking, but it imposed a cap on spending this coming fiscal year and set the GOP up to accomplish more if they could pass individual spending bills with policy ‘riders.’ But House Republicans have so far managed to pass only one of the 12 appropriations bills to fund the government, the one on veterans and military construction. Thus Congress is careening toward a possible government shutdown at the end of this month when the current fiscal year ends. House Republicans can’t even pass the defense or homeland security spending bills, which should be the easiest and contain many GOP priorities on military spending and border security. Recalcitrant Members—'snipers inside the perimeter'— are demanding that somehow the House cut even more spending than the debt-ceiling bill stipulated."
We’d be happy to support spending brinkmanship if it served some achievable goal. But taking responsibility for shutting down the government is a sure political loser. The party that seeks a shutdown is always blamed. The result in this case would likely be even more spending as Republicans need Democratic votes to reopen the government— and Democrats will demand something for it. The GOP will get few if any policy victories.
This is all so obvious— so Civics 101— that it’s amazing to watch men and women who ran for Congress refuse to get it. Too many Republicans apparently come to Washington these days mainly to blow things up and count their TikTok followers.
Some backbenchers point the finger at McCarthy and this or that promise he supposedly made to become Speaker. But who’s their alternative? Matt Gaetz? The kamikazes might be able to depose Mr. McCarthy, but then they’ll turn around and chew up the next unlucky person who takes the job.
They didn’t want to mention any names, but those hapless backbenchers they’re talking about— all vulnerable to a blue wave next year— are Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Mike Garcia (R-CA), Maaria Salazar (R-FL), Brandon Williams (-NY), John James (R-MI), Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Tom Kean (R-NJ), Mike Lawler (R-Y), Ron Wittman (R-VA), John Duarte (R-CA), Michelle Steel (R-CA), Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), Carlos Giménez (R-FL), Nick LaLota (R-NY), David Valadao (R-CA), Marc Molinaro (R-NY), Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Young Kim (R-CA), Laurel Lee (R-FL), Bryan Steil (R-WI), Ann Paulina Luna (R-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Monica De La Cruz (R-TX), Cory Mills (R-FL)…
Yesterday a quartet of Washington Post reporters wrote that the House is floundering because McCarthy has failed to appease the fascist wing of his conference, with “intraparty tensions” making a government shut down in less than 2 weeks all but certain. “House Republicans’ inability to find agreement on even a stopgap funding bill that is destined to fail in the Senate again puts into focus the challenge before House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he tries to unite his party and avoid a government shutdown. Though Republicans largely agree on the need to significantly curb federal spending, divisions mostly over process have given any five lawmakers enormous power in the razor-thin majority.” On Tuesday it was radical “Freedom” Caucus members Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Dan Bishop (R-NC), Ken Buck (R-CO), Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Matt Rosendale (R-MT).
Is there a way out? Of course… working across the aisle. If McCarthy did, he would be kicked out of the speaker’s chair immediately. But his more mainstream allies are putting out feelers to their conservative colleagues among the Democrats. The Post reported that as fascists were digging in on their opposition, the conservatives “began to firm up contingency plans for a bipartisan effort to keep the government open, publicly condemning their colleagues’ obstinance. Some Republicans are seriously considering getting behind a shell bill that could, as soon as next week, serve as the vehicle that allows mainstream conservatives to supersede McCarthy’s control of the House floor and force a vote to keep the government open… What exactly gets included in such a discharge petition remains unknown, but those familiar with the planning said it would include a short-term funding plan to avert a shutdown that could garner enough support from House Democrats and the Senate. Such a move would keep McCarthy’s fingerprints off whatever bill is ultimately voted on in the House. But it would undoubtedly irritate colleagues who have said that passing any bill with Democratic votes would immediately trigger a motion to remove McCarthy from the speakership.”
Lawmakers familiar with several possible pathways to avert a shutdown— including another deal that could be struck between the Republican Governance Group and New Democrat Coalition— say that any compromise with Democrats would be a last-case scenario for Republicans, who desperately want to see their conference agree on a stopgap bill that could move them into negotiations with the Senate and salvage some of their policy demands on border security.
But that pathway stalled Tuesday when GOP leadership pulled consideration of a noncontroversial procedural vote that would have been a key step toward passing a proposed stopgap funding measure out of the House. At least a dozen hard-right lawmakers— angry over what they say is a lack of information on top-line budget numbers and assurances that the Senate will adhere to their fiscal demands— have stymied efforts to pass the 30-day funding bill.
A number of lawmakers across the ideological spectrum spent most of Tuesday huddling across the office suite of Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) trying to find a path forward. Notably missing was McCarthy, who has allowed lawmakers to take the lead on cobbling up a proposal that can pass.
“It’s not one way or the highway,” McCarthy said at a news conference Tuesday. “It may not look perfect to you, maybe you want one person to decide everything, I don’t think that’s the way government should work. I like a lot of ideas to come up and have the best idea win.”
Early in the meeting in Emmer’s office, Rep. Kevin Hern (OK), who chairs the largest ideological grouping of House conservatives, proposed amending the deal by lowering the top-line number for all 12 appropriation bills to over $1.4 trillion, cutting the number originally agreed to by House Freedom Caucus and Main Street Caucus negotiators in a deal hashed out over the weekend.
Rep. Ralph Norman (SC), one of the hard-right lawmakers against all current funding options, said that a significant number of the roughly 20 holdouts would flip if Hern’s amendment was adopted. But several people familiar with the whip count said that it likely wouldn’t be enough to ensure the stopgap bill’s passage.
Norman added that a “top-line number first, then a schedule on the 12 appropriations” would signify a “done deal” for all holdouts to flip, including ending their block on considering full-year appropriation bills.
Easier said than done. Mainstream conservatives don’t have any “incentive to grant hard-right lawmakers’ request to cut spending further, arguing they have continually moved the goal posts and made demands after the House Appropriations Committee spent months drafting 12 bills under the roughly $1.6 trillion agreed to by McCarthy and President Biden to raise the debt ceiling earlier this year. ‘Why take those votes if they’re not even willing to support a defense appropriations bill? It goes right back to, this is the easy one,’ said Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), who is on the Appropriations Committee. ‘If they can’t support our military— men and women, people in uniform, making sure that we’re a secure nation— there’s no point in voting any more pieces of legislation out of committee because they’re not willing to support the tough ones.’ In another reflection of the quagmire within the Republican conference, the House on Tuesday failed— just as it had last week— to pass a procedural vote that would have advanced a bill to fund the Defense Department for a full year, a measure usually passed without controversy…. The House also had adjourned early for their August recess after failing to strike a policy agreement on the typically noncontroversial Agriculture funding bill.
The scene, once unthinkable, has become routine in McCarthy’s tenure: a House majority incapable of passing the parliamentary rules for debating legislation. In May, the speaker fell short of corralling the votes for the rule setting up the debt ceiling legislation. Democrats then, at the urging of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), swooped in and provided a couple dozen votes to pass it.
That scene was remarkable to veteran lawmakers who have never seen the minority party provide the votes to pass the rule vote, and it greatly irked the far-right wing of the conference, who have since pledged to oust McCarthy if he leans on Democrats again. That perspective has forced Republicans to only pass bills through their narrow-ranks.
Five GOP rebels forced Tuesday’s rule— largely backed by the majority of the conference— to fail, causing many Republicans to express the hypocrisy by their colleagues who want to pass all 12 appropriation bills but are preventing that from happening on the floor.
“We just witnessed a conservative Republican Party, frankly look and behave like the minority instead of the majority,” said Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA), a former naval aviator. “What we just saw were five individuals vote against the rule to bring to the floor, for a vote, the most conservative DOD bill in modern history.”
When it became clear the GOP lacked the votes to pass the rule, senior lawmakers walked to the center aisle where Reps. Norman, Ken Buck (CO), Dan Bishop (NC), and Matt Rosendale (MT) were holding court, pleading with them to change their votes.
Rep. Ken Calvert (CA), chair of the defense appropriations subcommittee, huddled with Norman. Garcia, who represents a swing district with thousands of jobs tied to the military, also joined the animated conversation.
…After the failed vote, several frustrated Republicans railed against the five GOP lawmakers who had voted against advancing the Defense Department funding bill. Republican veterans, who first warned their colleagues to support funding for the Pentagon, blasted the five lawmakers and charged them for voting in support of China instead of upholding American ideals around the world.
“The Republican conference of this Congress did not vote this down,” said Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI). “Five members of our conference did, and they should be held accountable.”
…Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) lamented the time that he said was being wasted over a proposal that the Senate is almost certain to dramatically change. He said Freedom Caucus members and other hard-right holdouts were focusing too much on the initial part of the budget negotiations and blocking their own goals to fund the government, which remains the most basic priority for the House as enshrined in the Constitution.
“You can’t claim victory on something that has no chance of becoming law. I have likened it to one wetting oneself in a dark suit. You get a warm feeling, but nobody notices,” Womack said. “We will be judged on how we vote on the last vote, not on the first one.”
At a press gaggle Tuesday evening, McConnell told reporters “I’m not a fan of government shutdowns. I’ve seen a few of them over the years. They never have produced a policy change and they’ve always been a loser for Republicans, politically.” I think he was aiming that more at the House “Freedom” Caucus trouble-makers than at the media per se.
McCarthy also addressed the nuts in his party through reporters. He told his own press gaggle yesterday that "If Republicans hold Republicans back from moving bills it's like you're walking into a fight losing. And I've never understood that situation. So I want to be able to win these battles."
Meanwhile, instigator Matt Gaetz did something similar, but on Hannity’s show, saying he won’t support any stopgap spending bill that would “lump every disparate agency of government into one vote… We will have a shutdown. But I don't believe that an 8%, 30-day cut would have yielded the programmatic reforms that would create any long term savings. The only way to do that [is] open amendments, individual bills, no more continuing resolutions or omnibus.” He wants to follow DeSantis as the next governor of Florida. Most Republican members of Congress would be overjoyed to see him run just to get rid of him. Oh... and here's why the MAGAts insist on shutting down tha government: