Democrats Yet Again Save America From Government Shutdown, Maybe Should Be Running The House?
The House voted yesterday to pass new Speaker Mike Johnson’s weird two-step temporary funding bill, preventing a government shutdown and giving Republicans until the new year before their dysfunction puts the country at risk of another shutdown. The bill now goes to the Senate, which should be able to pass it quickly and get it to President Joe Biden in plenty of time to avoid a shutdown. Without passage of the “continuing resolution” (CR), the government would have run out of money at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
The CR passed with a bipartisan 336-95 vote, with all but two of the “no” votes coming from Republicans. Johnson had initially promised rightwing Republicans that he’d never sink to allowing Democrats to help pass a CR. But those very same rightwing Republicans made clear they’d only vote for a bill that slashed federal spending, which wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance of passing the Senate.
For all of Johnson’s weirdo rightwing beliefs and lack of experience in a congressional leadership role, it appears he can at least count to 218, so he suspended the House rules to allow an immediate vote on the bill yesterday, which prevented his fellow righties from blocking it from going forward. As the New York Times points out, the bill Johnson pushed through with help from Democrats “was a near-exact replica of the funding package he had opposed six weeks ago, when he was still an obscure lawmaker from Louisiana.”
And unlike six weeks ago, it appears that however mad Johnson made his far-right House Freedom Caucus buddies, he won’t face a vote to defenestrate him, at least not for this bill. Check back again in January and February when this CR expires and we go through all this idiocy again.
Yes, we did say January and February. Johnson agreed to one rightwing demand, which was that any CR had to be “laddered,” with temporary funding for some parts of the government — the military and veterans services, plus some other departments— running only through January 19, 2024, while the rest of the government would be paid for through February 2.
Why do it that way? All previous continuing resolutions simply picked a date for the funding to run out and called it a day. Perhaps the righties thought having two separate deadlines, each of which could cause a partial government shutdown, would give them more leverage to force pet policies through. Hell, maybe they just relished having twice the potential to cause chaos.
Crucially for House and Senate Democrats, Johnson’s weird bill is at least a “clean” CR that continues funding at its current levels, so although they initially mocked and declared the proposal DOA when Johnson unveiled it Saturday, they eventually agreed it was considerably better than a shutdown, so fine, they’ll support it. It also helped that Johnson’s CR extends the current (2018) Farm Bill all the way through fiscal 2024, which ends September 30, 2024, meaning most federal food aid programs will be relatively safe from cuts in an election year. (Republicans could try to cut them in a later bill, but that would need to get through the Senate.)
After a closed-door House Republican meeting yesterday, Johnson said, “We’re not surrendering. […] But you have to choose fights you can win.” He also promised that after this one, he was “done with short-term CRs” for good, just like someone quitting smoking or reading TVTropes. For good measure, he also endorsed Donald Trump as the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee to prove he’s still in the Asshole Club.
Once the short-term funding bill passes the Senate and is signed by President Joe Biden (assuming no asteroids or reentering space junk obliterate the White House — it’s been one of those years), the pressure will be on for Republicans to actually pass bills to fully fund the government through September 2024.
It’s not just the possibility of partial shutdowns after the staggered January and February end dates for this CR, either. Beyond that, if fiscal 2024 funding isn’t passed by April 30, 2024, automatic one-percent cuts will kick in for all federal spending, even for cherished GOP priorities like the military and border enforcement. That was an incentive built into the May agreement that raised the debt ceiling, and it can’t be bypassed even if House Republicans consider Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy unpersons. (It’s a pretty weird compromise, really, none of which will matter if the House actually passes funding bills.)
Not surprisingly, Johnson’s rightwing buds in the House are already trying to decide how to punish him for not shutting down the government. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said of the short-term bill, “It’s crap,” and said that he and other Republicans have discussed “a couple of different actions” they might take against Johnson, though he didn’t go into specifics. As for Johnson’s statement that he was “done with short-term CRs” after this one, Roy said he had his doubts:
“Mike is an extraordinary man of integrity and honor,” Roy said. “I take him at his word. But what I think you’ve got to remember [is] this is a job where it’s very difficult to honor our commitments like that. You’re going to get up to another deadline.”
But for now, at least, no federal workers will be going without pay over the holidays, and all the work-intensive scientific research projects getting federal funding won’t be allowed to suddenly die, so thank Crom for that.
We bet that House Republicans will now learn their lesson and get right to work crafting bipartisan legislation that will put the good of the American people ahead of their petty political agendas. Also we aren’t sure those were the regular gummy bears we scarfed down instead of breakfast this morning.
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