Under pressure from an impending snowstorm (translation for non-D.C. weather babies: a predicted couple-inch sprinkling), both chambers of Congress Thursday passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until early March.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), whose primary career ambition at the moment is to avoid being cannibalized by his right flank, is trying to satisfy its bloodlust by insisting that the bipartisan Senate immigration bill — a side, but parallel project to funding the government — is not punitive enough. If he can be a hardliner on this, the thinking goes, the right wingers might let him get away with the capital crime of passing a stopgap with Democratic votes.
He started out with an aggressive stance, that Republicans wouldn’t work on the border until Donald Trump or another Republican is in the White House (e.g. why would Republicans try to resolve the “crisis” that they’re getting so much political mileage out of), though he’s gotten squishier of late.
Some on the hard right are displeased — their resting state — but seem, at least for the moment, disinclined to go for Johnson’s scalp. The Kevin McCarthy fiasco may still be too fresh in everyone’s memories.
Even if Johnson does survive this time, spring will hold greater threats.
Cast your mind back to the McCarthy-Biden debt ceiling agreement last summer. It included spending levels for the government that House Republicans promptly rejected, leading to a near-shutdown and last minute CR with Democratic cooperation that cost McCarthy his job. But that agreement also included a stick, should Congress (House Republicans) fail to pass appropriations bills and continue passing stopgap measures instead.
Come April 30, if Congress has failed to pass an appropriations package or tried to just pass another CR instead (for any part of the government), the entire budget is slashed to 2023 levels minus one percent. That includes the defense budget, specifically meant to keep Republicans at the table who would otherwise cheer such cuts to, say, the Department of Education.
So when March hits and these CRs expire, Johnson will have to wade into the even more treacherous waters of actually passing bills. That’s a huge problem for him since a) some number of House Republicans will simply never accept anything that has Democratic support and b) these bills need to pass through the Democratic Senate and get the Democratic President’s signature. Oh, and Johnson’s tiny majority is about to get even smaller, giving the impossible-to-please caucus even more power.
This is a natural outgrowth of a Republican party hellbent on obtaining and keeping power for power’s sake — with no animating policy aims — for whom breaking the legislature is part of that project. And it does not exactly spell job security for Mike Johnson.
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