December 9, 2023

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Congress barrels toward a shutdown with GOP at the wheel#Congress #barrels #shutdown #GOP #wheel


With just 13 days to avert a government shutdown, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing his biggest test yet.

The dominant Washington narrative is that his back is against a wall, with conservatives threatening a shutdown and vowing to remove him as speaker if he doesn’t agree to their demands. If the federal bureaucracy grinds to a halt, some say, that could be a good thing – prompting needed conversations about spending.

Why We Wrote This

With government funding set to expire Sept. 30, national deficits are worse than they’ve been in decades. Republicans are internally divided over whether to cut a deal or make a stand.

This fiscal year alone, the government is $1.5 trillion in the red, pushing the debt to a record $33 trillion.

Lost amid the frenetic jockeying is the fact that this standoff is a political choice. When Mr. McCarthy faced a similar crisis last spring over whether to raise the debt ceiling, he brokered a deal with Mr. Biden and Democrats, ultimately getting the measure passed with a huge bipartisan majority.

Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat in the Problem Solvers Caucus, says there are more than enough Democrats willing to help save Mr. McCarthy’s speakership if he’s willing to save the United States from a shutdown.

“There’s a grand opportunity here,” says Mr. Phillips.

But Speaker McCarthy, knowing the political cost of such a move, has indicated he’s not willing to explore a bipartisan deal – at least not yet.

With just 13 days to avert a government shutdown, Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing his biggest test yet. His challenge: trying to unite fractious House Republicans on a spending agreement, with only a 4-vote margin and seemingly unbridgeable divisions between what right-wing Republicans are demanding and what can ultimately pass the Senate. 

McCarthy allies were working to shore up support Monday for a 30-day stopgap measure. But its future was highly uncertain, as numerous members of his own party had already come out against the deal.

The dominant narrative in Washington is that Speaker McCarthy’s back is against a wall, with conservative Freedom Caucus members threatening – or even pushing for – a shutdown and vowing to try to remove him as speaker if he doesn’t agree to their demands. They see the federal bureaucracy as bloated, ineffective, and driven by a progressive policy agenda. If government grinds to a halt, that’s not a bad thing in their eyes, especially if it forces tough conversations about spending. This fiscal year alone, the government has spent over $1.5 trillion more than it brought in, pushing the debt to a record $33 trillion. 

Why We Wrote This

With government funding set to expire Sept. 30, national deficits are worse than they’ve been in decades. Republicans are internally divided over whether to cut a deal or make a stand.

Mr. McCarthy’s announcement last week of an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, over whether he corruptly participated in his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings, was widely seen as an attempt to placate right-wingers. But they say impeachment is an entirely separate matter.

Lost amid the frenetic jockeying is the fact that this standoff is a political choice. Though it may be the least damaging option for Mr. McCarthy at the moment, there are other courses of action he could pursue. 

When Mr. McCarthy faced a similar crisis last spring over whether to raise the debt ceiling, he wound up brokering a deal with Mr. Biden and Democrats, ultimately getting the measure passed with a huge bipartisan majority. That cost him politically, but not as much as a national default likely would have.


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