The House of Representatives was in recess Friday morning, with no bills scheduled for the floor, but with the threat of Saturday votes hanging over members. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at 1:00 PM ET on Friday to start implementing the latest harebrained scheme Speaker Kevin McCarthy has embraced in hopes of keeping his job. How harebrained is it? It was created by chaos agent Rep. Matt Gaetz.
On Thursday, House hard-liners dealt McCarthy a sharp defeat on a defense appropriations bill, for the second time in three days. McCarthy and his leadership team intended for that spending bill to grease the skids for a Saturday House vote on a continuing resolution, the short-term government funding bill that lawmakers must pass to give themselves more time to pass all of the full-year spending bills.
Instead of taking up the short-term funding, McCarthy is trying Gaetz’s plan: bringing single-subject appropriations bills to the floor one at a time. The first set of bills that the Rules Committee is charged with setting up are Defense, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, and the Agriculture-FDA bill.
Note that it took the House until the end of July to pass just one stand-alone spending bill. So the idea that it can pass the remaining 11 in about a week’s time is absurd. It would be absurd even if the nihilists in the House Freedom Caucus, with all of their competing personal agendas, didn’t exist. It’s even more ridiculous because none of these bills will be accepted by the Senate—they break the budget deal that the House, Senate, and White House agreed to earlier in the year. Even House Republicans get that. “Hell, no, they are not going to become law,” Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, a top Republican appropriator, told Politico.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. First things first, House Republicans have to figure out how to get this first set of bills through the Rules Committee and onto the floor, possibly setting up the first votes for Saturday. McCarthy might have a hard time getting enough of his Republican lawmakers back in town for Saturday votes, so it’s possible they won’t have floor votes until Tuesday. (Congress is out Monday for Yom Kippur.)
With the House in disarray, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stepped in, preparing for his chamber to try to save the day. He started the legislative process on a bill that could be used as the vehicle for a continuing resolution. This is the likeliest scenario for averting a shutdown: The Senate spends the week working on that bill, passes it, and sends it to the House late in the week, where lawmakers would have to make the choice between passing it or shutting down the government.
That’s what Republicans like Womack fear. He told Politico, “Let me tell you what we’re risking right now. … We’re risking the Senate completing its work and sending it to us and saying, ‘Here you go.’”
For his part, President Joe Biden doesn’t intend to bail McCarthy out again, like he did in the debt-ceiling standoff—a deal McCarthy has since reneged on. He dunked on McCarthy in a tweet Thursday.
On Friday, the Office of Management and Budget is officially starting to prepare for shutting the government down, advising agencies “of their responsibilities to review and update orderly shutdown plans, and will share a draft communication template to notify employees of the status of appropriations.” That means each agency has to start determining which operations—and which workers—are essential. That’s generally air traffic controllers, Secret Service agents, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory staff, who would have to work without pay for the duration.
In happier news, a government shutdown won’t stop the multiple criminal prosecutions against Donald Trump.
Biden, Schumer are doing what they have to do: Let McCarthy fail
McCarthy fails. Again
Shutdown watch: McCarthy all but hands the gavel to Gaetz