No shutdown for now: Where Congress goes from here
After becoming embroiled in a weeks-long spending battle that seemed headed inexorably toward a government shutdown, Congress decided at the eleventh hour to approve a 45-day reprieve — showing that a bipartisan majority can still retain power have to push back against vocal obstructionists.
Embattled Republican Chairman Kevin McCarthy stunned his opponents on Saturday by approving the short-term funding measure with the votes of a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives, along with almost all Democrats. The measure includes $16 billion in disaster assistance, but no border security provisions or aid to Ukraine. That caused Democratic Senator Michael Bennet – the son of a Polish Jew born just before World War II – to hold the bill in the Senate until almost 9 p.m. It passed 88-9, with three hours to go before the midnight deadline.
The move gives Congress more time to try to pass a new budget. But as much as the deal brought a collective sigh of relief on Capitol Hill, it does little to resolve the underlying problems that caused the standoff in the House of Representatives between Republican Party leadership and renegade conservatives over spending cuts and budget priorities. It also exposed a wider disagreement over aid to Ukraine, once a bipartisan issue.
Why we wrote this
Despite its reputation for dysfunction, Congress showed that a bipartisan majority could still come together to push past obstructionists — potentially opening the door to greater cooperation.
Still, the ability of Democrats and Republicans to come together to prevent a shutdown is at least somewhat counter to the prevailing view that Congress is hopelessly deadlocked. It also suggests that Speaker McCarthy may be a better strategist than was given credit for. That could mean an opportunity for more bipartisan cooperation in the future, though he is now deeply indebted to Democrats and could still face significant pushback from the party’s right flank.
“As a radical pragmatist, I was thrilled to see that a bipartisan solution could avoid a shutdown that would have been painful for millions of Americans,” said Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. “I hope the same spirit leads us to a resolution before the 45-day extension expires.”
Give the budget process more time
Congress is supposed to develop a budget through twelve parallel appropriations bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but in the end it often falls short and the entire budget is crammed into one large “omnibus.” Most lawmakers have little time to read it and virtually no opportunity to comment on it.
House Republicans, under pressure from conservatives pushing to complete the full appropriations process this year, have passed four of their 12 bills — covering more than 70% of discretionary spending, according to Speaker McCarthy. On the Senate side, where Democratic Chairman Patty Murray of Washington and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine have won plaudits for their methodical work on the Appropriations Committee, some expressed optimism that the latest turn of events would reinvigorate the process. to give.
“I believe we have a good chance that there won’t be an omnibus,” said Florida Sen. Rick Scott, a self-made Republican Party businessman who has served in the Senate for five years. “I’m actually optimistic.”
However, others were skeptical that everything would be different in the future.
“The whole system is broken — and has been that way for 20 years,” said Republican Mike Braun of Indiana, one of nine dissenters in the Senate. He told reporters that he had never voted for a continuing resolution, or CR, as this type of stopgap measure is known.
“You have no budget. You have no discipline here,” he said, adding that the average annual deficit has risen from $1 trillion to $2 trillion since he joined the Senate. “We… borrow 30 cents on every dollar we spend here.”
Although aid to Ukraine represents a small part of the overall US budget, it has become a major sticking point. Many Republicans are increasingly unwilling to send more aid at a time of record U.S. national debt and so many pressing problems at home. They especially want to prioritize securing the southwest border, where millions of migrants have flowed across since President Joe Biden took office, overwhelming border towns and straining resources in far-flung urban areas like New York.
Other Republicans and most Democrats say it is essential that America shows leadership in pushing back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I know how important moments like this are for the United States to lead the rest of the world,” said Senator Bennet, noting that his family members were among the 16 million people killed in Poland and Ukraine by the Nazis and Soviet leader Josef Stalin. “There is no one else who can lead this.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat on the Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committee, says he is confident the Senate will approve additional aid to Ukraine in the next 45 days.
“It is easier to support Ukraine when the US government is open than when the US government is closed,” he says.
McCarthy’s high-wire act
For Speaker McCarthy, it was a rare moment of vindication. After weeks of high-stakes negotiations with right-wing parties, many believed he was unable to instill party discipline.
His willingness to give those rebels some space to run – and vent – may have worked to his advantage. The voices he raised, but which were repeatedly torpedoed by a handful of members, may have served to isolate the dissenters from the rest of the party. While 90 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the temporary spending measure on Saturday, Mr. McCarthy can say the bill passed with the support of “a majority of the majority.” That could strengthen his hand against any future attempt to oust him through a maneuver known as a “motion to vacate.”
“If anyone wants a motion against me, make it,” a triumphant Chairman McCarthy said after the vote passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 332 to 19. “I’m going to govern with what’s best for this country.”
In a statement, President Joe Biden applauded the “bipartisan majorities” in Congress that had “avoided an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted unnecessary pain on millions of hardworking Americans.”
But the president also called out Mr. McCarthy and House Republicans for bringing the government to the brink of a shutdown in the first place by trying to “walk away” from the deal he and the chairman struck in June negotiated during the debt crisis. ceiling crisis.
Republican Party rebels, including some within the right-wing Freedom Caucus, say the speaker went back on promises he made in January to secure their support. Still, one of that bloc’s most outspoken members, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, declined to say whether he would support a motion to remove Mr. McCarthy, telling reporters, “we’ll see.”