Like millions of Americans, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., probably wishes he was still on summer vacation. Now that the House has returned from August recess, the President’s first order of business is to keep the government from shutting down when the fiscal year ends on October 1. Also on the agenda are some other key pieces of legislation that must be on President Joe Biden’s desk by the end of the month.
But McCarthy faces pressure from his right flank that will make it difficult to achieve before that deadline. While it’s conceivable he could reach a deal that satisfies both his caucus and the Democratic-controlled Senate, he’ll have virtually no room for error before the far-right pounces on him. — and he will have to balance those interests without much, if any, support from Senate Republicans.
McCarthy will have almost no room for error before the far right pounces on
McCarthy and Biden signed a deal in June that would raise the debt ceiling while capping spending for the next two years. Appropriation bills under this framework were supposed to begin passing the House this summer. But then the ground changed under McCarthy’s feet, as members of the House Freedom Caucus began to insist that the caps set in the debt ceiling agreement were a problem. ceiling and that further cuts would be needed to gain their support on the appropriations bills themselves. So far, only one bill has been passed in committee, leaving the rest to be considered before October.
The White House has asked Congress to pass a continuing resolution to keep operations going beyond Sept. 30, as well as $40 billion in emergency spending for aid to Ukraine, disaster relief disaster and to solve several problems related to the southern border. McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., both said they favor passing an interim bill while the appropriators finish their work. But the Freedom Caucus has already said its members would not support such a bill without a series of concessions on entirely unrelated matters.
It’s the exact opposite of the mood in the Senate, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made it clear that he and his fellow Republicans intend to stick to the previous terms of the agreement. “The president and the president reached an agreement that I supported on raising the debt ceiling to set spending levels for next year,” McConnell said last week. “The House then flip-flopped and passed spending levels below that level. Without expressing an opinion on it, it will not be reproduced in the Senate.”
I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing the Senate over the years, but I have to say that when it comes to this year’s supply bills, the Senate is moving forward in a way that I never expected not. The Senate Appropriations Committee not only passed all 12 spending bills, but also passed all 12 with overwhelmingly bipartisan votes, which seems as rare as goose teeth these days. (Also, it should be noted that McConnell himself sits on the committee and voted on all 12 bills.) The plan is to start moving them to the Senate for passage over the next week, leaving the House in metaphorical dust.
Above all this looms the specter of impeachment. I wrote last month that the Republican Party’s impeachment fever seemed to be easing. I was half right. Yes, Republicans are increasingly acknowledging that the votes aren’t there to formally open an impeachment inquiry against Biden, a step Republicans violated against Democrats for skipping before former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. in 2019. But here’s the twist: The House Republicans demanding impeachment really don’t care about minor details like the whip count. They want what they want – and they want it yesterday.
Senate Republicans are doing what’s best for Senate Republicans, rather than what might help bail out the president.
CNN reported last week that GOP leaders were debating internally whether to skip the impeachment inquiry, even though it would prove Republican objections to the process in 2019 were more for show than for a precedent concern. McCarthy tried to deny the reports on Friday when he told the Brietbart website there would be a vote. But the votes needed for an impeachment inquiry are not about to suddenly materialize, no matter how heavily Trump leans on the holdouts.
A failed vote would leave holdouts vulnerable to attack from Trump, who Politico said “suggested he would use an impeachment vote to weed out all Republicans who are skeptical of MAGA and support key opponents against them.” In the long run, members facing primary opponents losing to a string of openly MAGA candidates could cause key constituencies to turn to Democrats, potentially threatening McCarthy’s already wafer-thin majority in the next election.
But in the short term, major risks hang over McCarthy. not hold an impeachment vote. For example, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said she I will not vote for any spending bills without an impeachment inquiry. And Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., unsubtlely hinted at further retaliation during a radio interview Tuesday. He warned that “if President McCarthy gets in our way, he may not have this job for long.”
Unless he plans an impeachment vote to appease his right-wing members, McCarthy will have to rely on Democratic votes to keep government open. That, however, would be another reason for Chaos Caucus members like Gaetz to press a motion to vacate the chair, which could see McCarthy lose the chairmanship. It is a convergence of all the forces that have been swirling since the controversial fight for the President’s gavel in January.
However, none of this concerns McConnell. His caucus is mostly indifferent to the impeachment hiccups playing out in the lower house and is clearly united enough to pass bills alongside the Democratic majority. In short, Senate Republicans are doing what’s best for Senate Republicans, rather than doing what might help bail out the president. On McConnell’s side of the Capitol, the problems McCarthy faces are all his fault. So, McConnell leaves him to figure it all out on his own.