About an hour ago Punchbowl News sent out an email: “Special Edition: How Congress Averted a Shutdown.” It includes a lot of interesting detail and tidbits. I’m not criticizing it as a report, per se. But the big picture of what happened here is actually very simple.
It had nothing to do with “Congress”. It certainly had nothing to do with House Democrats who were ready to vote for a clean continuing resolution at any point. The Senate, with substantial bipartisan majorities, was ready to pass the appropriations bills that made any continuing resolution unnecessary. Since the House had missed its deadlines the same bipartisan Senate majorities were ready to pass a clean continuing resolution. Even a significant number of House Republicans were willing to pass a clean resolution all along. Indeed, a clean continuing resolution was required all along by the agreement Congress and the President made back in May. Kevin McCarthy simply decided to break that deal to appease House hardliners.
At every point this was about the House Republican caucus’s demand to get some new goodies in exchange for not shutting down the government. The only slight ambiguity there is that for some House hardliners the shutdown itself clearly was the goodie. For the House hardliners it was goodies or a shutdown. There was no getting out of that binary choice because Kevin McCarthy refused any solution that relied on Democratic votes.
Then sometime today he decided to allow a vote on a clean resolution relying on Democratic votes. It passed and that was it. That change was really all that happened.
We’ve been on this course of escalating drama for weeks or months, with all the purported big matters of principle, all the tough talk about never backing down. And then they backed down and agreed to get nothing. So it all ended with a resounding “Never Mind.” But not before holding the whole federal government and much of the economy on tenterhooks for weeks or months.