The Congress Critters are returning to Washington and preparing to take up the next battle in the war over funding the government. The adversaries are the House Freedom Caucus versus Everybody Else.
With less than three weeks remaining before government funding runs out on Sept. 30, Congress has not cleared any of its 12 annual appropriations bills, though there has been more progress than in the recent past. Given the rapidly approaching deadline, leaders of both the House and the Senate agree that a temporary stopgap funding measure will be needed to avert a government shutdown beginning Oct. 1. But that usually routine legislation is facing major obstacles in the Republican-led House, making its path to President Biden’s desk unusually fraught.
Members of the House’s far-right Freedom Caucus are pledging to oppose even a temporary measure if it does not cut funding substantially or include new border controls and restrictions on prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump. At the same time, senators of both parties want the stopgap bill to include billions of dollars in new assistance to Ukraine, a demand that House Republicans are resisting. House Democrats want nothing to do with any of the Republican bills, which have also been loaded with conservative social policy riders that have little chance of enactment.
The major obstacle for Mr. McCarthy is that a significant segment of the hard-right members in his ranks are insisting on conditions on the temporary funding measure that could never clear the Democratic-led Senate even as they call for deeper spending cuts in the full-year spending measures that many of their fellow House Republicans will not support. That internal divide and differences over abortion policy and other issues forced Mr. McCarthy to pull funding measures from the floor just before the August recess.
The House Freedom Caucus has about 41 members out of 222 total Republicans, I believe. Yet they appear to be calling the shots in the House, possibly because the remainder of the Republicans aren’t able to pull together a united resistance. And because Kevin McCarthy is a waste of space.
The FCs are loading up appropriations bills with junk riders about keeping drag shows and critical race theory out of the military. And some House Republicans want to add amendments to appropriations bills that would “prohibit the use of federal funding for the prosecution of any major presidential candidate prior to the upcoming presidential election on November 5th, 2024,” it says here. And we know which presidential candidate would benefit from that.
Because of the very narrow Republican majority, McCarthy needs a united party to pass anything with only Republican votes. He’s not going to get that. And if McCarthy tries to put together a coalition of not-Freedom Caucus Republicans and Democrats to pass a stopgap measure, the FC members will challenge his leadership. They’ve got him by his boy parts.
The funding dynamic is entirely different in the Senate, where Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee have been working cooperatively to advance spending bills at a higher level than what is being considered in the House. Leaders of the panel have also kept the bills free of the contentious policy riders that are drawing fire in the House.
The Washington Post reports that the Senate is preparing to take the appropriations initiative away from the House.
After being largely on the sidelines during the debt-and-budget battle in the spring, the Senate is ready to take the lead on the fall legislative session on the outline for government funding and supporting critical national security efforts overseas.
These senators then expect to use their largely unified position as leverage to get their way in the more detailed agency funding outlines expected in the late fall, while also dominating the split House on negotiations over the annual Pentagon funding policy legislation.
In all, the Senate wants to reimpose its traditional role of regularly jamming the lower chamber into accepting its bipartisan approach to big policy matters.
I take it a majority of Senate Republicans want to continue to fund Ukraine, to increase (as always) the defense budget, and to increase disaster aid to parts of the country devastated by storms and fires. Further, in case the government shuts down October 1 because the FCs have gummed up the works, Senate Republicans have vowed that the nation will know that it’s all the fault of the freaking Freedom Caucus.
As a political act, government shutdowns have a long history of backfiring on the party that caused it. So why is the Freedom Caucus so all-fired eager to shut it down? Because they are idiots, that’s why. They are no more capable of imagining the real-world consequences of anything they do than a toad can sing opera,