It appears that a shutdown is inevitable – and that the House Freedom Caucus will be framed as the villains for insisting on fiscal responsibility, and that any stopgap measure include border security funds, and exclude a “blank check for Ukraine.”
And while the House hasn’t been able to produce a workable Continuing Resolution (CR) – which would allow McCarthy leverage to extract concessions from the Senate and the White House, the Senate’s funding proposal includes roughly $6 billion for Kyiv – a plan that Republicans say is ‘dead on arrival’ back in the House.
What’s more, McCarthy and Biden have had zero conversations about the impending government shutdown – which will put millions of federal employees, including service members, on furlough starting Oct. 1. There are currently no plans for the two men to confer, according to Punchbowl News.
“I have tried to talk to the president. … This is the president who is sitting on the sidelines. I would like to see a president willing to engage. … I would think if you’re president of the United States, you don’t have to have an invitation. Engage. Let’s solve [the border crisis] together,” McCarthy said Wednesday evening.
McCarthy also hasn’t spoken to a single Cabinet secretary about the looming shutdown either. It’s been crickets.
Let’s break this down.
The politics for McCarthy: McCarthy is desperately trying to drag Biden into the government shutdown fray — rhetorically and substantively. Why? Biden is an easy target for the California Republican. The president’s poll numbers are terrible. And the speaker’s most hardline critics have no interest in cutting deals with the White House. Former President Donald Trump — who McCarthy has all but endorsed — is lashing out at Biden as well. So why shouldn’t McCarthy?
McCarthy is also on a different page than his Capitol counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on government funding, Ukraine and other issues. McCarthy is struggling to rally support in his own conference. Hitting Biden, including launching an impeachment inquiry, makes sense internally for McCarthy. It’s a useful distraction.
The White House has no reason to deal with McCarthy, who’s being pulled in several directions at once. Instead, the Biden administration can just wait to see what McCarthy is actually able to pass.
The House is scheduled to vote on four GOP-drafted spending bills today; Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture and State-Foreign Operations – all of which could be a shitshow, as evidenced by Wednesday night’s maneuvering in the House Rules Committee to slash $300 million in Ukraine funding from the Defense bill.
If McCarthy can’t pass even these bills, the Senate will be in pole position (an argument the Speaker has made to colleagues in the House).
McCarthy’s options are shrinking
“Unless something dramatic happens today or tomorrow, there will likely be a couple-of-day or longer shutdown — very, very unfortunately, because it’s our responsibility to exercise and exhaust all options,” Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) told The Hill.
After suffering some embarrassing setbacks last week, GOP leaders met demands from hard-liners to take action on full-year funding bills before working on any stopgap proposal. They agreed to demands to further cut some overall spending levels in the GOP bills as the shutdown ticked nearer.
“I want to see the appropriations bills. I want to use the appropriations process,” said Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.).
None of those bills alone will avert a shutdown, as they are already opposed by the White House and will be promptly rejected by the Senate. But McCarthy and his allies hope that building goodwill with the conservatives will help rally them around a stopgap bill — which some Republicans resist calling a continuing resolution, since they would aim to change policies and cut some spending for its duration.
According to the House GOP hardliners, the shutdown stopgap is a no-go until other appropriations bills are advanced.
“We’re gonna pass 12 appropriations bills before I will consider a CR,” said Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN).
In short, it’s chaos and gridlock going into the weekend.