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“Two Months From Now, We’ll Be Doing It All Again”: Republicans Aren’t Averting A Government Shutdown, They’re Just Delaying It

Congratulations, America: It looks like your government will not be shutting down this week after all.

Now that John Boehner has announced he will be resigning next month, he is supposedly free to do what he was actually perfectly free to do before, which is to allow a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, i.e. one that doesn’t include a provision cutting off all Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood.

But before you get too relieved, there’s something else you ought to know. The CR that’s now working its way through Congress will only fund the government through December 11. In other words, two months from now we’ll be doing it all again.

There’s no way to know for sure whether we’ll still be arguing about Planned Parenthood at that point, but if it isn’t Planned Parenthood it’ll be something else. There will be something conservative Republicans in Congress want to do, or more likely, stop, that will be so titanically important to them that they will refuse to fund the government unless they get their way. What that thing is doesn’t really matter.

You’ll recall that when they shut the government down in 2013, it was because the goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act was the most important thing ever, so vital that it necessitated the shutdown. Then later they threatened another shutdown, but this time it was President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that were so monumentally awful that they had no choice but to move toward a shutdown. Today it’s defunding Planned Parenthood that is so utterly essential that we must shut everything down if it doesn’t occur. By December it could be something else entirely.

It’s pretty obvious that what drives these crises isn’t the substance of the issue everyone ends up taking about, it’s the battle itself. That’s what the tea partiers who create the crises are after. They want to stand up to Obama, to get their leadership to show some spine, to banish compromise, to fight, fight, fight! They’ll fight about anything.

This was what John Boehner struggled with for nearly five years as speaker of the House: a significant portion of his caucus had zero interest in governing, which made them almost impossible to work with. They didn’t come to Washington to write laws or solve problems, they came to fight, and if there’s no fight going on then they have no purpose. Shutdowns don’t bother them too much, because they think almost everything government does is bad anyway.

These members judge their own success not by the outcome of any battle, but by whether along the way they acquitted themselves with sufficient fierceness. The only opposition in their home districts they ever fear comes in the form of an attack from the right. When they go home they tell their constituents, “I stood up to Barack Obama!”, and “I stood up to John Boehner!” That’s an accomplishment as far as they’re concerned, and it’s greeted with cheers. It doesn’t matter whether they won, or whether they actually achieved any of the conservative policy goals they claim to seek.

And now they’ve been emboldened. They see Boehner’s resignation as a victory for them and a validation of their entire view of politics. The likely next speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, has spent a good deal of time building relationships with the Tea Party representatives who despised Boehner, but they are going to be watching him very closely. At even the slightest hint that he wants to engage in any governing — of the kind that entails working with the other side and taking some of what you want even if you can’t get it all — they will rise up against him.

That doesn’t mean they will be able to depose him (they couldn’t depose Boehner, after all, mostly because nobody else wanted the job badly enough to challenge him). But they will put every ounce of pressure on him they can, and, as of yet, we have no idea how McCarthy will respond.

So we’ll have a situation very much like what he had up until Boehner’s announcement: some irreconcilable policy disagreements, a Republican caucus itching for a fight with the president, and a speaker under pressure to go all the way to a shutdown. The only difference is that the new speaker will be particularly keen to demonstrate to his restive members that he’s different from his predecessor.

And by the way, we’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling in November or the United States of America will default on its obligations. This will give House Republicans yet another opportunity to threaten catastrophe if they don’t get what they want. Should be a fun couple of months.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | Government Shut Down, House Republicans, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Does The Orange Man Want?”: A Shutdown Is Almost Certain To Happen If Boehner Concludes It Will Be Good For Him Personally

As usual, it’s extremely useful to consult Stan Collender on how the fiscal end-game may work out this week or (if the can is kicked down the road) soon enough. His latest take discusses the roles that Ted Cruz, the House Freedom Caucus, and even House Democrats might play in making a government shutdown happen or not happen. But most interestingly, he notes there is one player in the saga who can most definitely cause a shutdown pretty much on his own if he so wishes: yes, that presumed shutdown opponent John Boehner:

This is the alternative that so far has gotten no attention, but there is a real possibility a government shutdown will be just what Boehner needs to survive as speaker and get a clean CR through the House.

The shutdown would appease the Freedom Caucus and defuse its effort to replace the speaker because Boehner would be doing what the caucus wants by refusing to bring a CR to the floor that maintains funds for Planned Parenthood. A few days or a week later when the appetite for a shutdown has changed, Boehner would be able to do what he’s done on several past budget-related bills: say they fought the good fight, that the fight will continue in other ways and get permission from the GOP caucus to work with Democrats to pass the CR.

A shutdown is almost certain to happen if Boehner concludes it will be good for him personally.

Don’t be shocked if that’s exactly how the deal goes down. Thinking of Boehner’s motives, I’m reminded of an ancient National Lampoon cartoon of a judge glaring angrily at an insolent-looking young man in the dock and saying: “You better show some respect, sonny. I had to kiss a lot of ass to get this job.” Boehner may not be as ready to give up his gavel as some observers think.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, John Boehner | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Wasted Day”: With Time Running Out, House GOP Passes Pointless Abortion Bills

In just 12 days, current funding for the federal government will run out, raising the very real prospect of another Republican shutdown. With so little time remaining, one is tempted to assume that lawmakers are scrambling to find a constructive solution.

Those assumptions would be wrong. MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported on how the GOP-led House spent its morning.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed on Friday the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, 248-177. The bill strips the women’s health provider of its funding for contraception, pap smears, and testing for sexually-transmitted infections, unless it stops performing abortions.

 President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the bill, setting the stage for a possible government shutdown. Some congressional Republicans have vowed not to vote for any budget that includes funding for the organization.

The final roll call on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood is online here. Note, the vote largely fell along partisan lines, but not completely – three Republicans voted with the Democratic minority, while two Dems voted with the majority. The vote on the measure was immediately followed by another vote on a related bill, which would “impose criminal penalties on doctors who do not try to save a baby who ‘survives an abortion,’” which passed by a similar margin.

So, what happens now? I’m glad you asked.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House GOP leaders saw these votes as a way to placate their own far-right members. It was the leadership’s way of saying, in effect, “You want to defund Planned Parenthood? Fine. Here’s a bill on which you can express your intention to do exactly that.”

As a practical matter, it was a gambit to help conservative lawmakers get this out of their system before the real work begins.

The bills will now go to the Senate, where they are all but certain to die. In the unlikely event that the bills clear the upper chamber, they’d then go to the White House, where President Obama has already said he will veto them.

If it sounds as if the House, facing a looming shutdown deadline, wasted a day of work passing two anti-abortion bills that will inevitably fail, that’s because it did. House Republican leaders knew this all along, of course, but scheduled the votes anyway to make GOP members feel better.

The next step is the more serious one. Republican leaders in both chambers are going to ask their members to pass a temporary, stop-gap spending bill – called a “continuing resolution” – that maintains Planned Parenthood funding, but prevents a shutdown.

And quite a few GOP members are going to say, “No.” Today’s attempt at pacifying those House Republicans will not work, because they don’t want to say they voted to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood, they want to actually cut off funds for Planned Parenthood – and they’ll accept nothing short of their demands.

All of which leaves us with an unfortunate truth: today’s theatrics, intended to please everyone, satisfied no one, and brought us one step closer to a shutdown that appears increasingly unavoidable.

Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 18, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Will The House GOP Stop The War on ISIS?”: If You Hamper The War Effort Of One Side, You Automatically Help That Of The Other

So here, with Congress now trying to figure out what to do about President Obama’s request for funding for the Syrian rebels, we have a glimpse, as rare in its way as an eclipse or a meteor shower, of two Republican pathologies colliding head-on. The first is their biological urge to oppose Obama on all matters. The second is the House Republicans’ chronic eleventh-hour melodramatics about keeping the government funded every September. I could throw in a third—John McCain’s ever-mounting and ever-more-obvious personal bitterness toward Obama—but we’ll lay him aside for today and focus on this joining of the two pathologies, which in the worst-case scenario threatens to derail Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign before it even starts.

Fast background: Congress has to pass a continuing resolution by September 30 or we’ll have a government shutdown again. Actually, in practical terms, it has to pass it within the next few days, because the Jewish holidays are coming and Congress is going on recess so members can go back home and campaign.

In an election year, no one on the GOP side wants to risk a government shutdown (check that—Ted Cruz still kind of does!). The two parties are mostly arguing about the Export-Import Bank, the newest piece of coal for the tea party fire, but that’s the kind of thing they usually agree at the last minute to extend for another six months.

But that was the pre-ISIS state of play. Then we all saw the beheading videos, and fighting the Islamic State became a matter of urgency. Obama had asked Congress for $500 million in aid to the Syrian rebels back in June, but Congress, in its laconic, congressional way, was originally going to wait until next year to get around to that. But now the administration wants that $500 million—which is actually part of a larger $2 billion request that would include other money for operations in Iraq and Ukraine—to be passed now. And it wants it included in the “CR,” as they call it.

As you probably know, the House Republicans met Thursday morning in the aftermath of Obama’s speech to figure out how to proceed. As you probably also know, they didn’t figure it out. Some support Obama’s request—John Boehner does, and the relevant committee chairmen. Others, of course, don’t trust Obama. Some want to keep the Syria money in the CR. Others want to pry it out and have two votes, one on government funding and one on the Syria dough.

What would be the point of this? There is no point. Long Island Republican Peter King said something in Politico about how “it sends a stronger message” if it’s a separate vote, which is nonsense. Can you picture Bashar al-Assad sitting in Damascus talking with a top aide and saying, “Well, I don’t think $500 million is a serious amount of money,” and the aide says, “Gee, boss, I don’t know, I mean, they passed it on a separate vote”?

Please. The only reason to have a separate vote is to diddle the White House around. “Assert congressional prerogative” is the more euphemistic way to put it, but I can guarantee you that if President Romney were asking for this money, the only thing Republicans would be debating would be how many times they could each vote yea. Similarly, the shocking demand among some Republicans for greater action—for ground troops, even—is equally hypocritical. If Obama had proposed ground troops, they’d be hyperventilating about how scandalous it was of him to want to send our troops into harm’s way. They’re just looking for a hook—the handiest excuse to oppose Obama that they can find.

Obviously, passing the $500 million in the quickest way possible is what sends the strongest “message,” as if anyone even cares about such messages. What matters is that the money gets authorized. If the House Republicans pull it out of the resolution and make it a free-standing vote that will happen later, then all that accomplishes is that it gives talk-radio land and the conservative Twittersphere a few days to badger Republicans about casting a pro-Obama vote (and right before an election). And if that happens, and the right finds some excuse to work itself into a lather over this, Boehner may just decide that the easiest thing is to send them home without voting on Syria at all.

In one of his more famous essays, “Pacifism and the War,” George Orwell wrote that pacifism “is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other.” Orwell was writing of course about World War II, which I concede this is not (although I submit that it would be nice to see similar rhetorical restraint from the Republicans, who never tire of invoking Munich when they’re harping on Obama for not being tough enough). But if it isn’t World War II, neither is it the last Iraq War, which was completely unprovoked and based on lies. ISIS has killed Americans, and its threat to the region is clear and obvious. The Islamic State is evil by any measure. House Republicans may not trust the president and may prefer to see all this done differently. But without going as far as Orwell did (he later walked back the essay, after all) we can fairly ask if they want to have done nothing to check the Islamic State’s march.

I actually don’t think it will come to that. Even so, if I were a moderate Syrian Sunni, I wouldn’t be putting in orders for any tactical ballistic missiles just yet.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 12, 2014

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans, ISIS | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Holding The Credit Rating Hostage, Again”: The GOP’s Big New Plan To Take Down ObamaCare

With crucial pieces of the Affordable Care Act set to kick in later this year, some conservative lawmakers have been trying to rally support within the party to shut down the government to block the law, or to force President Obama to scrap it.

That threat — a refusal to pass a budget (or in D.C. jargon, a “continuing resolution”) to fund the government until ObamaCare is defeated — hasn’t gained traction with the party at large. Yet now, multiple reports say the thinking inside the GOP is to shift the ObamaCare battle from the budget fight to another looming fall showdown: The debt ceiling. (For a refresher, read the Guardian‘s helpful history of the debt ceiling here.)

From the Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll:

House leadership firmly believes that attaching anything “new” to a continuing resolution is politically untenable, while passing a higher debt limit, without attaching anything new, is also politically impossible. Hence the House leadership’s desire to fight ObamaCare through the debt limit, but not the CR.

The plan is to pass a 60-day CR extension that keeps discretionary spending at the existing sequestration levels. Then House leadership wants to combine Democratic desires to roll-back sequestration with conservative desires to delay/defund ObamaCare into the debt limit fight. [Washington Examiner]

A government shutdown, besides failing to actually defund ObamaCare, has the potential to be politically disastrous for the GOP. Republicans bore the brunt of public rage over the government shutdown in 1995 when they refused to bargain with President Clinton, and they would likely suffer the same fate should they go that route again now. No wonder conservative commentators like Charles Krauthammer have labeled the strategy “really dumb.”

Though the impact of a debt ceiling standoff is tougher to predict, the fallout would be more economic than political, potentially sparing the GOP on that front. Still, if the debt ceiling isn’t raised — meaning the U.S. couldn’t borrow more money to pay its existing debts, thus threatening the nation’s credit rating — the fiscal consequences for the country could be catastrophic. That’s why this gambit would represent a “massive escalation” in the ObamaCare funding showdown, argues New York‘s Jonathan Chait.

Closing the federal government for a limited period would have mostly political consequences (probably for the Republicans). The substantive effects build up cumulatively and start to really harm the economy after weeks on end, but the two sides could negotiate through a shutdown.

The debt ceiling is another story. The effects of missing the deadline would be immediate and, while unpredictable, potentially very large and irreversible. That’s why Obama now insists, after disastrously allowing himself to be extorted in 2011, he won’t negotiate the debt ceiling, but has never made an analogous pledge about a continuing resolution. [New York Magazine]

Unlike the very vocal threat to shut down the government over ObamaCare, the latest rumored standoff is, for now, merely rumblings from behind closed doors. And there’s at least some reason to believe it will amount to no more than an empty threat in the end.

The Republican leadership has been increasingly under pressure to appease the right wing of the party. Publicly insisting that ObamaCare funding will be fought further down the road would soothe the demand for that fight in the first place, while kicking the can down the road, perhaps indefinitely.

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent points out, this is exactly what happened with the last debt ceiling fight. In January, Boehner said the upcoming sequester debate, not debt ceiling fight, gave the GOP its best position to push for major budget cuts. Yet the sequester came and went without the GOP winning those deep concessions.

There’s some reason to think the same dynamic is at play here, too. The health care exchanges mandated under the ACA go into effect October 1. If Republicans really try to defund ObamaCare during the debt ceiling talks, they will, in effect, be arguing a settled debate.

Here’s Sargent:

So now, under this emerging plan, Republicans would be moving to demand a delay in ObamaCare’s implementation — after the exchanges kick in — in exchange for not allowing the country to go into default, even though Boehner himself has already admitted the debt limit must be raised to avoid putting the full faith and credit of the U.S. at risk?

What all of this comes down to is that GOP leaders need to decide if they are going to level with their base, and acknowledge that blocking ObamaCare by using this fall’s confrontations as leverage is just a nonstarter, period, full stop — whether we’re talking about a government shutdown, the debt limit, or whatever. [Washington Post]


By: Jon Terbush, The Week, August 15, 2013

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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