Republicans Seemingly Have No Plan To Avoid Shutdown

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11 : President Donald J. Trump debates with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., right, as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of White House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Washington Post/The Washington Post

In case it wasn’t already clear, Republicans on Thursday signaled they have no plan to avoid a government shutdown after President Trump put them on the spot with his outburst earlier this week.

In a testy exchange on the House floor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) repeatedly failed to lay out what his party will do to pass government funding, blaming everyone but his own caucus as he quarreled with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

“My plan to do that is I need 60 votes in the Senate,” McCarthy said, putting the onus on the other chamber to come up with a plan

“I guess my plan is you don’t want to work with us,” he later sputtered at Hoyer.

“If the plan is we just give up after agreeing to 99 percent [of other funding] that’s no plan at all,” Hoyer retorted.

There’s some truth that the Senate is where the real action is. Even if House Republicans can ram through government spending bills that include Trump’s demand of $5 billion for border wall construction, something that’s far from certain, Republicans don’t have the votes in the Senate for such a plan.

But while Trump declared that House Republicans at least could pass his preferred plan, it’s not clear at this point that that’s even true given how many retiring and defeated GOP members haven’t been showing up for votes recently. Nearly two dozen have been missing votes and aren’t exactly eager to hang around a Capitol in which they don’t even have offices just to help their leaders pass a messaging bill.

They do not have the votes to pass the President’s proposal for $5 billion for the wall,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared Thursday morning, shortly after the House voted for the final time this week.

Lawmakers were scrambling for the airports, and aren’t scheduled to be back again until Wednesday, just two days before funding for a quarter of the government runs out on Dec. 21, though they’ve been told they may have to come back earlier.

McCarthy wasn’t ready to admit how tough a position the President has put his party in. But others conceded there’s no clear path forward so long as Trump continues to insist on more border wall funds, and Democrats refuse to vote for it.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said he thought House Republicans could manage to pass a bill that included Trump’s wall funding — “if all the members are here.”

“You do start worrying this time of the year, particularly with members leaving, whether they’ll come back for that, particularly when whether you pass it or not there’s no reason to believe it’ll happen in the United States Senate,” he told TPM. “When the people that disagree come to an agreement, we can move.”

Cole expressed frustration that a $3.3 billion disagreement about wall funding was holding up what amounts to $400 billion in agreed-upon spending for the entire government.

Pelosi said that right now, a shorter-term agreement to fund the government through next September looked like the most likely option.

But as of now, Trump seems rigidly unwilling to accept any bill that keeps the government open unless he gets his wall funding — something that’s a non-starter for Democrats. They’re not going to let it pass the Senate. So unless Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can come to an agreement in the coming days, a shutdown looks likely.

“The only obstacle is the President of the United States,” Pelosi said.

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