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The Shutdown Looms – And Congress Seems Unable to Dodge It

Congress has effectively shut down – will the rest of the government soon follow?

by | Jan 12, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

Barely a week remains before 20% of the government runs out of funding, with the rest expiring on February 2. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) has a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on a top-line spending number – and the upper chamber seems ready to pass a temporary measure when lawmakers return on Tuesday to buy some time – but certain parties in the GOP aren’t interested in the terms of that agreement. There’s a shutdown on the horizon, and Congress seems unable to dodge it this time.

Mutiny in the House

A group of 12 Freedom Caucus members revolted in the House Wednesday, January 10, in protest of the bipartisan deal Speaker Johnson struck with the other leaders in Congress to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown. The dozen dissidents blocked a procedural vote – and the Democrats didn’t jump in to help – effectively shutting down the legislative process for the day. The irate Republicans demanded Johnson come up with a much lower top-line spending amount and push to have government funding reduced slightly each year until the budget reaches a more reasonable size. They also demanded some new border and immigration policies be included in the eventual funding bill.

New banner Liberty Nation Analysis 1Johnson eventually seemed to mollify the mutineers, though he says he made no promises other than to listen, and business was allowed to resume tentatively on Thursday. “He listened when we had meetings. He knows we’re upset with the Schumer spending number. He knows we’re upset with no border,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) explained. “He’s herding cats. I get that. But something’s got to give. And when they say, ‘government shutdown,’ there’s a lot of different variations of that.

Generally speaking, those who oppose the deal Johnson worked out with Schumer want less spending overall and a more robust immigration policy. More specifically, however, even the 12 who protested the deal don’t all agree on the alternatives. But together, they’ve asked Johnson to scrap the continuing resolution (CR) plan passed by the Senate before upper-chamber lawmakers left Thursday for the long weekend and draft his own the House can pass and present to Schumer when he returns next week.

Sliding Toward Shutdown

The issue of government spending is expected to dominate the day Friday, but then the House takes off for the holiday weekend, and whatever doesn’t get done won’t be taken back up until Tuesday, January 16 – leaving nowhere near enough time to pass enough single-subject bills to establish government spending for the year. With just four days remaining before the first deadline, even a CR is beginning to seem unlikely to avert the looming shutdown considering the chaos in the House. As one set of Republicans in the lower chamber demands Johnson toss the deal and write up his own, another set is tired of the constant bickering. “That’s pretty nasty. It’s ridiculous,” said Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC). “At some point when you have people complain all the time, it’s like crying wolf. It just lacks credibility anymore.”

And the word from Senate Republicans? “Good luck,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sarcastically replied when she heard the news. “That’s not gonna work,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said. And Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) made the obvious point: Avoiding a shutdown next week will only be harder if Johnson abandons the deal and starts from scratch.

Speaking of the deal, the present $1.59 trillion agreement includes accelerated cuts to IRS funding and a recapture of billions of dollars in unspent COVID-19 money. Both would be a major win for Republicans – even the hard-liner holdouts. But it doesn’t include the desired border and immigration reform, and it would also allow for billions in nondefense programs, and that has conservatives fired up.

It bears repeating that Johnson has not agreed to scrap the deal yet. It’s also worth noting, however, that if the current agreement does hit the House for a vote, the only way 12 Republicans can stop it is if all or nearly all Democrats vote against the bipartisan deal as well.

But what if Johnson does agree to start anew? If the House GOP can come to an agreement today that funds at least pushes the deadline back a bit, will Senate Democrats sign on? Any such bill is bound to fall far short of what congressional Democrats and the president want – but at this point, just getting the House GOP to work long enough to agree on a continuing resolution might be too much to ask.

Read More From James Fite

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