McCarthy Herds Republicans for Joe Biden

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We’re about to have a Speaker Week Vote-O-Rama replay in which Speaker Kevin McCarthy will try to pass a pseudo-budget to kick start negotiations with Joe Biden over the debt ceiling, despite the fact that Biden has made clear he’s not going to negotiate over the debt ceiling at all. Biden has made clear he won’t negotiate but he’s definitely not even going to get into it until McCarthy says what it is is he wants. This pseudo-budget is the bill of particulars in which McCarthy says what he — or rather the Freedom Caucus — wants. As I said, it’s the Speakership vote all over again.

Following all this? Well, as you can tell it’s pretty convoluted. There’s a lot of kabuki and signaling wrapped around what should be an ordinary budgetary process. Because it’s so convoluted I wanted to provide some big picture points to keep in mind as this unfolds.

First, it’s going to be really difficult for McCarthy to get this passed. He has to keep all his far-right Freedom Caucus types on his side as well as the so-called “moderates,” folks who have to run in real elections. He also has to manage the demands of others who have issues that don’t fit on a clear left-right continuum. He got hung up on ethanol subsidies earlier in the week. It’s going to be really hard. But I’d be surprised if they don’t finally pass something.

For the White House, producing some kind of budget blueprint is both the demand and the prize. The Freedom Caucus and other House right wingers are forcing McCarthy to pack this budget with lots of really unpopular measures to give it any hope of passing. Once McCarthy gets all his members to vote for it, it essentially becomes a Democratic campaign document for next year — all the things House Republicans publicly committed to supporting. At least all but four.

It also becomes a cudgel for the debt ceiling stand off itself.

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