UPDATE #2: Congress is indeed adjourned and Members are headed back to their home districts (or in the case of Rep. Lauren Boebert, wherever it is she goes when she’s not in Congress). House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is not in good company, either presently or historically:
Per the great @kristin__wilson
Since 1995 house has failed to pass rules 8 times. All under GOP control.
Gingrich: 6 in four years
Hastert: 2 in 8 years
McCarthy: 3 in 8 months, including 2 this week
Boehner, Pelosi and Ryan never lost a rule.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) September 21, 2023
UPDATE: Not a good sign:
🚨🚨🚨BREAKING — HOUSE will alert members shortly that they are done for the week
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) September 21, 2023
“I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea [forward] and having the debate. This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn’t work.”
— House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (9/21/23)
Congress has ground to a halt as right-wing Republicans dig in on their spending cut demands in advance of a Sept. 30 deadline to continue funding the federal government.
As The Washington Post reports, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives can’t even agree to hold a vote on funding for national defense:
House Republicans on Thursday failed to advance a Defense Department appropriations bill, a stunning defeat after leaders believed they had swayed enough votes to move the bill forward.
It was the second time in a week that a vote on the rule, needed to advance the bill, was defeated.
The failed vote came after an almost three-hour meeting Wednesday that focused both on long-term spending bills and the more immediate task of avoiding a government shutdown after Sept. 30. During the closed-door meeting, a majority of the House Republican conference found consensus around more than $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending for the upcoming fiscal year. And while they reported progress on a bill to keep the government open in the short term, a plan to avoid a shutdown was not finalized.
But any good feelings out of that meeting crumbled Thursday morning, when five Republicans — Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Eli Crane (Ariz.) and Matthew M. Rosendale (Mont.) — voted against advancing the measure to a final vote. [Pols emphasis] Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) switched his vote from a “yes” to “no,” which allows Republicans to bring up the motion again later if they have the votes.
Things have gotten so bad for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that his own Republican caucus can’t even agree on trying to vote on a spending agreement. A government shutdown seems unavoidable at this point, even though House Republicans know full well that they will get hammered by voters as a result.
Republicans and Democrats agreed on a new federal budget in May in order to raise the debt ceiling and stave off what economists predicted would have been a catastrophic default (this was the same debt ceiling vote that Rep. Lauren Boebert infamously missed altogether). But right-wing Republicans, led by the House “Freedom Caucus,” aren’t interested in abiding by that agreement and want MORE cuts.
As the editorial board of The Washington Post explained earlier this week, there is a way out of this mess:
A deal already exists to avert a U.S. government shutdown. It’s the debt ceiling compromise that was agreed to in May by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Biden. The deal was a true middle ground: Mr. Biden and other Democrats agreed to spending cuts on domestic programs in 2024 and 2025 and a reduction in IRS funding in exchange for House Republicans raising the debt limit and forgoing deeper cuts. Both sides gave a little, and the result was some real (though modest) savings. As a new budget year approaches in October, all lawmakers have to do is follow the spending levels they agreed to earlier this year.
Yet far-right lawmakers are demanding a renegotiation, insisting on substantial cuts to everything but defense and veterans aid — the things they did not get earlier this year — and threatening a government shutdown if they do not get their way.
Mr. McCarthy does not have to bow to these lawmakers’ demands. He can stick to the previous agreement, passing a budget with some votes from House Democrats, and avoid an Oct. 1 shutdown. [Pols emphasis]
If McCarthy does not negotiate with Democrats, he’ll be giving into the demands of right-wing terrorists that will only lead to another round of ridiculous demands later:
Instead, Mr. McCarthy has tried to get his far right on side, proposing a budget that would slash funding for everything other than defense or veterans by 8 percent. That means cuts to education, transportation, national parks, public health and even law enforcement, among other popular and widely used programs. The bill would fund the government only through October, meaning there would be another hostage-like situation over the 2024 budget again this fall — during which the new, lower spending levels would no doubt be the basis for further demands. [Pols emphasis]
The other problem for McCarthy, which he created himself when he agreed to a bunch of silly demands back in January in order to secure enough support to become Speaker in the first place, is that making a deal with Democrats will likely lead to a Republican effort to call a vote to “Vacate the Chair” and elect a new House Speaker. McCarthy can work with Democrats to prevent a government shutdown…or lose his job as House Speaker.
McCarthy wouldn’t be the first Republican leader in Congress to fall victim to right-wing Republicans waving torches. The 2013 government shutdown happened for many of the same reasons and bled into a debt ceiling debate that ultimately ended the career of House Speaker John Boehner. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was next in line to become Speaker, himself suffered a massive upset in a Republican Primary Election just a few months later.
This movie will likely end the same way. It’s not a coincidence that government shutdowns almost always happen when Republicans are in control in the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, the rest of Congress (and America) are left waiting for House Republicans to get their shit together so that everyone else can get back to the job of governing.
Colorado Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is at least trying to maintain a sense of humor about one cancelled vote after another. Check out this video featuring a star turn for “Buddy” the dog:
UPDATE! Republicans canceled votes… again.
Here’s a snapshot of my days in this chaotic Congress: pic.twitter.com/l7AkSrKN99
— Rep. Jason Crow (@RepJasonCrow) September 21, 2023