The Senate is back in session later today after their August recess. And the House is scheduled to return next week. But Democrats have already hit the ground running to try to shield President Joe Biden’s White House from being blamed for a possible government shutdown.
Democrats’ strategy is to put the blame solely on far-right Republicans for what they are already describing as a possible “MAGA shutdown,” according to Politico.
“The Freedom Caucus has once again approached the funding of government as a hostage-taking opportunity,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told Politico. “We’re not going to agree to that kind of hostage taking.”
For weeks before the August recess, far-right House Republicans turned ordinarily uneventful appropriations committee meetings into battles over their party’s manufactured culture wars and MAGA grievances, meaning the House left for their lengthy recess with multiple appropriations bills still stuck in committee.
As they stuff bad faith amendments — attacking anything they like to classify as “woke” — into a handful of different bills, MAGA Republicans are claiming they want to cut government spending to pre-COVID levels. But instead they are writing bills that won’t pass a Democrat-controlled Senate, slowing down the appropriations process and getting the country one step closer to a potential government shutdown.
“This is really going to be driven by the House,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) told reporters on Friday. “They’re the ones that are going to bring [a shutdown] upon the country.”
The federal government will shut down unless a spending bill is passed by Sep. 30. That leaves about 16 legislative days for lawmakers to agree on a plan and even less time for the House as they don’t return to Washington until next week.
House Democratic leadership is still hoping to fund the government with a bipartisan bill, even if it’s just in the form of a stopgap.
Both Democratic and Republican leadership have indicated that a temporary deal to fund the government would buy lawmakers on both sides of the aisle more time to come to an agreement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) previously made it clear Senate Democrats are open to working with Republicans to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have both suggested a stopgap bill may be necessary to buy more time.
But the same hardliners delaying the appropriations process are doing what they do best: risking a financial crisis to performatively demand spending cuts and everything else they want.
In a late August statement, the Freedom Caucus, vowed to oppose any short-term solution unless leadership meets a list of demands.
“In the eventuality that Congress must consider a short-term extension of government funding through a Continuing Resolution, we refuse to support any such measure that continues Democrats’ bloated COVID-era spending and simultaneously fails to force the Biden Administration to follow the law and fulfill its most basic responsibilities,” the Freedom Caucus said in a statement.
If the Freedom Caucus does not budge McCarthy will have to work with Democrats to keep the government open. But some Democrats are not holding their breath over that.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of hope that Kevin McCarthy for once will actually stand up to the far right,” Connolly told Politico.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also called out far-right House Republicans for taking appropriations bills hostage and risking a government shutdown.
“We cannot afford the brinkmanship or hostage-taking we saw from House Republicans earlier this year when they pushed our country to the brink of default to appease the most extreme members of their party,” Schumer wrote in a Dear Colleague letter sent Friday morning. “Because of what we accomplished last year, our economy is gaining momentum; we cannot afford to jeopardize that progress because MAGA Republicans want to play political games.”