Even “moderates” Republicans reject plan to avoid closure and debt crisis
By any fair measure, Congress has a long way to go. The deadline for the next government shutdown, for example, is one week from tomorrow. The deadline for the debt ceiling soon follows. Meanwhile, lawmakers must approve emergency funding for disaster relief and provide funds to help resettle our Afghan allies.
The good news is that Democrats have crafted a simple bill that addresses each of these priorities: and funding both disaster relief and Afghan resettlement. The bad news is, there is a lot of bad news.
At first glance, the overnight developments on Capitol Hill represented a step towards a resolution. NBC News reported:
The House on Tuesday passed a law that would fund the government until December 3 and extend the debt limit until after the 2022 election. The party line vote was 220-211, with no Republican joining the Democrats to support the bill.
The partisan division was not a detail. Despite occasional discussions of the Republican House Conference having moderates and pragmatists interested in ruling, as the dust cleared on the floor of the House last night, literally zero GOP members were willing to support this uncontroversial solution to several outstanding issues.
Sadly, that also represented a legislative foreshadowing: the measure now heads to the equally divided Senate, where Republicans have vowed to vote en bloc against it.
It wouldn’t necessarily be a big problem – there is a narrow Democratic majority that can pass bills with up or down votes – with the exception of GOP leaders. keep insisting they will systematically obstruct the law and prevent a vote for or against. The result is a familiar dynamic, which Republicans will not budge from:
- Congress must raise the debt ceiling to avert disaster.
- Republicans say Democrats have to do it themselves.
- Republicans won’t let Democrats do this alone.
No one can say for sure how this will end, although the Senate GOP leaders threw a bit of a curveball last night. The hill reported:
Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) And Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) Proposed a competing short-term government funding bill on Tuesday night, just as House Democrats passed an interim measure that suspends the country’s borrowing limit. McConnell and Shelby’s bill, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, does not include a suspension of the debt ceiling, reflecting GOP pressure to separate government funding from the looming brawl over the country borrowing limit.
In case it wasn’t obvious, many Capitol Hill observers suspected that one of three things would happen: 10 Senate Republicans would give in, allowing the Democratic bill to pass; Democrats will need to create a waiver of the filibuster rules; or the United States will shut down the government and default on its debts.
McConnell and Shelby push a different types of packages: It would effectively do everything the Democratic bill would do except raise the debt ceiling. If Democrats accepted such an offer – presumably over the next eight days – there would be no shutdown, at least not until December.
The problem, of course, is that Congress would have to expand its borrowing power even further. For McConnell and his GOP allies, isolating this fight would create new hostage opportunities for Republicans, while simultaneously forcing Democrats to explore new legislative solutions, perhaps even trying to add it to their budget reconciliation plan. pending, which the GOP is anxious to kill.
If anyone tells you that they know how this ridiculous story will end, don’t believe them. Instead, watch this space.