Even ‘moderates’ Republicans reject plan to avoid shutdown and debt crisis

Rightly, Congress has a lot to do. The deadline for the next government shutdown, for example, is a 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: They unveiled a stopgap measure, known as the Continuing Resolution (or CR), that would keep government funding going for a few months. , extend the debt ceiling, and fund both disaster relief and Afghan resettlement. The bad news is that there is a lot of bad news.

On the face of it, the overnight developments on Capitol Hill represented a step toward a resolution. NBC News reported:

The House on Tuesday passed legislation that would fund the government until Dec. 3 and extend the debt ceiling until after the 2022 election. The party line vote was 220 to 211, with no Republicans joining the Democrats to support the bill.

The partisan division was not a detail. Despite occasional talk of the House Republican Conference having moderates and pragmatists interested in governing, as the dust settled on the floor of the House last night, literally no GOP members were willing to back that solution. uncontroversial to several outstanding issues.

Alas, it also represented legislative foreshadowing: The measure is now heading to the equally divided Senate, where Republicans have vowed to vote against it en bloc.

That wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal — there’s a narrow Democratic majority that can pass bills on yes or no votes — except that GOP leaders continue to insist that they filibuster legislation and prevent a vote for or against. The result is a familiar dynamic, which Republicans will not budge from:

  1. Congress must raise the debt ceiling to avert catastrophe.
  2. Republicans say Democrats have to do it themselves.
  3. Republicans won’t let Democrats do this alone.

No one can say with confidence how this will end, although GOP leaders in the Senate threw a bit of curveball last night. The Hill reported:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) proposed a short-term government funding bill Tuesday night, just as House Democrats passed a stopgap measure that suspends the country’s borrowing limit. McConnell and Shelby’s bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s top Republican, does not include a debt ceiling suspension, reflecting GOP pressure to separate government funding from the looming tussle over the debt limit. borrowing from the country.

In case it wasn’t obvious, many Capitol Hill watchers have suspected that one of three things will happen: 10 Senate Republicans will cave in, allowing the Democratic bill to pass; Democrats will have to create an exception to the filibuster rules; or the United States will shut down the government and default on its debts.

McConnell and Shelby are pushing a different kind of package: It would effectively do everything the Democratic bill would do except raise the debt ceiling. If Democrats accept such an offer — presumably within 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 eager to kill.

If anyone tells you they know how this ridiculous story is going to end, don’t believe them. Instead, watch this space.

Robert P. Matthews