Members of Congress are out of Washington for the August recess, but as the Washington Post reported Wednesday, a daunting pile of unfinished business awaits to be worked out when members return next month–and the narrow GOP House majority is divided on whether to govern like grownups, or once again force the nation down the familiar path of self-induced fiscal crisis:
The far-right House Freedom Caucus escalated the stakes Monday by releasing a list of demands to support a short-term, stopgap funding bill that will likely be needed to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30…
CRs generally extend existing funding levels and are usually free of such big policy provisions, but the group is seeking to leverage House Republicans’ razor thin majority to force a shutdown showdown right from the start.
The group’s escalatory and “unrealistic” tactics are becoming an increasing source of frustration for some of their GOP colleagues.
If you didn’t know better, once again, you might mistake Rep. Ken Buck for a reasonable voice in this conflict between Rep. Lauren Boebert’s far-right Freedom Caucus and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Buck was quoted in this story both distancing himself from the Freedom Caucus’ demands and seemingly lamenting a shutdown:
One of the Freedom Caucus’s own members, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), said in an interview that he didn’t support the group’s move. (The group needs support from an overwhelming majority of its members to take an official position.)
“They’ve locked themselves into not voting for the CR if those things aren’t met,” Buck said, adding that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) might need to start looking for Democratic votes. [Pols emphasis]
For Buck to suggest that it may be necessary once again for Speaker McCarthy to seek support across the aisle to pass the spending bills needed to keep the government open is nothing short of heretical coming from a member of the Freedom Caucus. The imposition of this latest list of demands from the Freedom Caucus appears to have shifted Buck’s opinion toward suggesting McCarthy make another end run around his fellow Republicans into the loving arms of Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. As recently as last week, as reported in the Colorado Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter, Buck was glumly predicting an “inevitable” shutdown:
Buck had a pessimistic view of the coming debate on the federal budget. He said a federal government shutdown is inevitable. “We are going to shut down,” he said. “There is no simple answer other than reducing spending.” [Pols emphasis] The Democrats at the luncheon expressed hope that Republicans wouldn’t let that happen.
Freedom Caucus members not named Ken Buck have already threatened to challenge McCarthy’s speakership, using the expanded power to do so they gained in the deal to allow McCarthy to take the job, if he repeats the deal made with the White House on the debt ceiling last spring and passes major legislation with Democratic support. But that now appears to be the course that Ken Buck is advocating for Kevin McCarthy to take.
So why doesn’t Buck get an atta-boy for suggesting this reasonable yet politically extremely risky course of action? That’s simple: Buck has nothing invested in the outcome. Based on Buck’s well-established voting record, he’s almost certain to vote against any spending deal that emerges. Buck’s preferred solution to the nation’s fiscal issues, as readers know, is to make America’s retirement age the highest in the world–and since nothing close to that drastic remedy ever comes up for a vote, Buck votes against basically every spending bill from either party.
Buck, who often votes against CRs, [Pols emphasis] said the Freedom Caucus should be focusing its efforts on reducing the top-line spending amount.
Ken Buck can identify the problem, and articulate a solution to the problem, but Buck has no intention of actually himself helping solve the problem. As Virginia Woolf said, “on the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”
History will record that is the best Ken Buck could manage.