Let It Burn?

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There’s a lot of discussion now about whether Democrats should directly or indirectly bail out Kevin McCarthy. Many reports say it will be necessary. I thought I should add that nothing I’ve written about this topic in recent days should give the impression that anyone should be rooting for McCarthy over the Freedom Caucus. There are no good guys in this story. But some are more ridiculous than others. Matt Gaetz for one.

A few thoughts on this clown show.

First: Let’s not forget how we got here.

McCarthy made a deal with Biden back in May to pass appropriations bills under a series of agreed spending limits. If Congress couldn’t finish all the bills by the end of September a continuing resolution would add more time. McCarthy then broke the agreement by giving the Freedom Caucus ultras the go-ahead to pass appropriations bills at spending limits dramatically lower than the May agreement required. That would set up a shutdown fight. The GOP House would point to its stack of appropriations bills and tell the Senate and White House: agree to these or we shut down the government.

That was the plan. But the House couldn’t actually pass its bills. The process broke down in the House rather than in a confrontation with the White House and Senate. The real gripe against McCarthy is that he couldn’t compel the GOP conference to pass the Freedom Caucus wishlist and then shut the government down over it.

It’s the same old story: the Speaker couldn’t deliver the Freedom Caucus its pet pony.

Is some other McCarthy clone going to be able to do that? Of course not. The central conceit of the House hardliners is that their views should hold sway over the whole government even though they only make up a small minority of a narrow majority of one House of Congress. What they can’t win with votes they propose to win with threats to damage the Republic. Same as it’s ever been with these guys.

Second: Why would Democrats bail out McCarthy? The best argument for doing so would be that he’s twice chosen deal-making to fulfill core governmental responsibilities over GOP nihilism. Once in May and again at the end of September. It’s highly questionable whether that’s enough. He’s enabled a thoroughly corrupt impeachment inquiry against President Biden. He’s created a path that leads almost inevitably to the President’s impeachment. He immediately broke the May deal thus setting up the latest crisis. He has enabled ex-President reign of lawlessness and chaos. He’s thoroughly abused his power as Speaker. The political calculus for the Democrats almost certainly dictates allowing the House Republican caucus to drown in its own chaos. He appears set on preventing a vote on Ukraine aid that the great majority of the House supports.

Why would Democrats further enable this? There’s just no rationale for doing so without specific and enforceable concessions. But any such agreement would make its Republican authors electoral dead men walking.

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