Tuesday, October 3, 2023

House passes budget resolution

Just as the Georgia game was starting on Saturday afternoon, I got word that the dysfunctional House had finally passed a continuing resolution to fund the government for 45 days. The measure will now go to the Senate, where it is likely to pass and avoid the shutdown.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bill passed with support from a bipartisan group that overwhelmingly supported the measure 335-91. McCarthy had previously said that he wouldn’t turn to Democrat votes to keep the government open, fearing a backlash from the fringe members of the Republican caucus. Only one Democrat voted against the bill, which required a supermajority under the special order rules, but almost half the Republican caucus voted no.

white and brown concrete building
Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

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“I have tried for eight months,” McCarthy told reporters. “It took me a long time to finally get the appropriations bills on the floor; they were delaying. I tried yesterday with the most conservative stopgap funding bill you could find,” he said. “I couldn’t get 218 Republicans.”

As I wrote yesterday, the GOP’s kamikaze caucus wanted to force a shutdown. Consequently, they are very unhappy with the deal and may come gunning for McCarthy’s speakership (as if anyone else wants it).

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed victory in a tweet that reported, “People will get paychecks and MTG threw a tantrum on the way out. Win-win.”

The price for the deal was that the clean CR contains neither aid for Ukraine nor the laundry list of items that the Republican rebels wanted. The bill does include $16 billion in disaster relief, although none of the reports I’ve seen specify exactly where this money is going.

There are also numerous reports that New York congressman Jamaal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in the Capitol at a point when Democrats were trying to delay a vote. A picture circulating on Twitter purports to show the congressman pulling the alarm.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) explained to the Journal that Democrats were trying to allow the Senate to pass its version of the CR before the House could pass its version. “If they can delay this until after the Senate vote, the Senate vote is going to become law. This is what this is all about.”

Rep. Bowman’s office acknowledged the incident in a statement, saying, “Congressman Bowman did not realize he would trigger a building alarm as he was rushing to make an urgent vote. The Congressman regrets any confusion.”

Expect to hear a lot about Rep. Bowman and fire alarms on Fox News and Republican social media. While pulling fire alarms without cause is unquestionably wrong and dumb, that isn’t the big story here. It’s just a way for MAGA to shift attention and blame.

Even though the bill does not include funding for Ukraine, I expect that issue to be addressed in a separate bill. In a recent vote on an amendment, support for Ukraine found broad support, including a majority of Republicans. It would have been nice to win that victory at the same time as passing a budget, but it seems unlikely that Congress’s Putinistas have the votes to block the aid to Ukraine.

Kevin McCarthy’s future as speaker may not be so certain. The same faction that opposed the budget deal will be apoplectic that McCarthy crossed the aisle to pass the measure with Democrat votes. They may well stage another rebellion and seek to depose McCarthy as speaker.

The important thing to note here is that the kamikaze caucus represented by Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene is a minority. As with the Ukraine aid amendment, a majority of Republicans (123-91) voted with Democrats to pass the CR today. It seems doubtful that the MAGA faction would have enough support to oust McCarthy - or that a majority of Republicans would want to be masochistic enough to go for another 15 rounds of speaker ballots.

Further, conservative pundits are starting to break with the kamikaze caucus. Erick Erickson noted on Twitter that a previous deal shot down by Gaetz and company would have included an eight percent cut to the government. That cut was absent from the CR that passed. As I pointed out yesterday, the kamikaze caucus doesn’t care if they hurt their party or their cause.

Personally, I’m encouraged that McCarthy had the cojones to form a bipartisan coalition to marginalize the GOP crazies. If this trend continues, it could be the start of something… well, hopefully something competent.

The federal government was designed to work on compromise, and that’s something that we’ve lost in recent decades as hyperpartisanship ruled. As Congress lost the ability to cross the aisle, it lost the ability to get anything done and fueled the desire of radicals on both sides for executive actions that circumvented the legislature entirely.

We need to correct that problem and maybe today was a start. These days, the real divide isn’t between the two parties, which are more alike than any of them want to admit, but between the radical extremists and authoritarians at both fringes. Moderates on both sides should find common ground and rule the day.


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