President Joe Biden and his Oval Office predecessor Donald Trump are poised for the most direct confrontation yet of their possible rematch as far-right House Republicans drive the country to the brink of the government shutdown.
The intense activity from Washington to the swing state of Michigan during this pivotal week will serve as a reminder of how extremism shook political institutions during the ex-president’s turbulent tenure and will test the ability to Biden to once again exploit the chaos to strengthen his re-election bid.
The government could run out of money by midnight Saturday as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggles to control a burned-out faction within his majority. The rebels are holding funding hostage to their demands for massive spending cuts that they have no power to force the Democratic-led Senate and White House to accept.
Trump, seeking to sow dysfunction under Biden’s leadership and advance his policy goals as the GOP’s 2024 front-runner, goads his loyalists and called on Republicans in a Truth Social article to shut down Washington “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING.”
Hundreds of miles away in Michigan, Biden and Trump will intensify their putative general election campaign in an early skirmish over Midwestern blue-collar votes amid a strike crippling the iconic U.S. auto industry. The ruling exposed a fault line between Biden’s long-standing support for union workers seeking wage increases and his plans for an electric vehicle revolution that could transform the industry. Trump, who opposes plans for a low-carbon economy to combat climate change, kicked off the confrontation by scheduling a visit to the strikers on Wednesday — the same evening other Republican candidates will debate. In a radio ad, the ex-president’s team says he has always stood up for auto workers, even as the United Auto Workers union warns that a second Trump term would be a disaster for unions.
The Biden campaign initially called Trump’s trip a “self-serving photo op.” But Biden then announced he would travel to Michigan a day before Trump for a historic march along the picket line. The move reflects a show of political dexterity by the Biden team after days of unflattering coverage about the president’s age and it comes as new polls on Sunday showed him locked in a theoretical impasse with Trump in November 2024 amid voter dissatisfaction with his management. economy. Michigan – which Trump won in 2016 but Biden returned to the Democratic column in 2020 – will once again be a vital general election state.
The drama in the Wolverine State will overshadow the second Republican debate, which Trump’s massive lead in the polls and refusal to attend has turned into a feud for a distant second place in the race. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will try to build on momentum from the first debate in Wisconsin last month, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is under pressure to revive a rapidly declining campaign . The event is being held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California – an incongruous choice since much of the Republican Party has left behind the legacy of the president who won the Cold War against Soviet totalitarianism and has now largely embraced the Trump’s authoritarian instincts.
These trends are on full display within the House Republican Party, which plans to hold the first hearing of its impeachment inquiry against Biden on Thursday, while threatening a government shutdown at the end of the week. This juxtaposition is likely to inflate claims that the Republican Party, which has yet to show any evidence that Biden is guilty of corruption, treason or high crimes and other misdemeanors, is using impeachment to try to harm the president before the elections and to mitigate the consequences. historic stain of Trump’s double and quadruple criminal indictments. Still, the process could exacerbate public skepticism about Hunter Biden’s alleged influence peddling, which has created a perception of a conflict of interest, even though the Republican Party has yet to prove that the president personally benefited from these transactions.
And Democrats now have another ethical headache, after a stunning corruption indictment against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last week gave the Republican Party more ammunition to assert that the allegations of illegalities go much further than Trump.
The confrontation in the House shows that the worsening of the Republican civil war risks making the country ungovernable. Indeed, this could be a desirable outcome for pro-Trump Republicans who hate what they see as an overwhelming administrative state or who seek dysfunction and economic unrest that could harm Biden’s presidency and facilitate Trump’s return in power.
Even though much of government will shut down at midnight Saturday unless Congress passes legislation to fund it, McCarthy sent his members home until Tuesday after a week of legislative chaos that exposed the weakness of his presidency like never before. The California Republican tried to pass a temporary funding bill known as a continuing resolution aimed at keeping the government open to allow time for a more permanent funding solution. But his conference’s hardliners, including debt hawks and others trying to unseat the president, refuse to comply. They are demanding massive spending cuts on top of those included in a deal McCarthy struck with Biden earlier in the year to raise the government’s borrowing limit, as a disastrous default loomed. Others want to end U.S. support for Ukraine’s war of survival against Russia. Not only did McCarthy fail to propose a temporary solution to spending, but he failed twice last week to pass a defense spending bill, which is generally easy to implement.
One way out of the crisis would be a coalition between moderate Republicans, who fear a shutdown could cost them their seats and the Republican majority next year, and Democrats, who would pass a temporary spending bill. But Republican Party hardliners are threatening to vote to oust McCarthy if he allows such a scenario. “It would be something that I would look at carefully, ma’am, if we removed our duty that we said we were going to do,” Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett told Dana Bash on “State of the Union ” from CNN.
McCarthy responded to the collapse by taking a spaghetti-against-the-wall approach, trying to revive a stopgap bill and even seeking to build momentum by bringing up several of the critical year-end spending bills funding various departments which normally take months. complex negotiations to finalize. But even if it adopted some of these major measures, it still wouldn’t avoid a shutdown. And even a short-term solution that he could adopt with the small majority of the Republican Party would likely be dead upon arrival in the Senate and the White House.
The speaker, who improbably managed to keep his lecture going through several crisis moments earlier this year, is increasingly exhausted. He criticized his party’s far-right faction last week, accusing them of “wanting to burn the place down.” Rejectist members of the GOP conference – from deeply conservative districts where primary elections are the only elections that matter – are seeking to neutralize the government by enacting sweeping budget cuts. Many undoubtedly act according to the wishes of their constituents. But because Democrats control the Senate and the White House, they have failed to build a coalition in Congress, or even within their own party, for such draconian action.
However, the slim majority of voters who won McCarthy in last year’s midterms — he can only lose four votes and still pass a bill along party lines — gives even small groups of members a great lever. By flouting core American political principles of majority rule and compromise, the rebels embody the Trump-era Republican Party, which rejected the will of voters by striving to stay in power after losing the 2020 election and promised “retaliation” if he wins. return to the White House.
As political pressure around a possible shutdown mounts, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took to political talk shows on Sunday to pressure Republicans. “The American people do not want a shutdown. From what I can tell, the Senate is ready to go. The administration is ready to go. House Republicans need to come to their senses and keep government running,” Buttigieg said on “State of the Union.”
The White House plans this week to highlight how a shutdown would affect Americans, highlighting a different set of programs each day, a White House official said.
McCarthy warned his party that Republicans tend to be punished by voters for government shutdowns. But Trump, who faces four criminal trials and wields great influence over McCarthy and his conference, is encouraging a halt — regardless of the social, human and economic chaos. He wrote on his Truth Social network last week that the shutdown was the “last chance to stop the funding of these political lawsuits against me and other Patriots.” They failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the purse and defend the country!
Despite the extraordinary possibility that Trump will be a convicted felon by Election Day, his rivals for the Republican Party nomination have failed to dent his standing among grassroots voters, who have bought into his narrative that his legal problems are political persecution, let alone political persecution. House Republicans who take inspiration from him. Wednesday’s debate, however, will offer a new chance for other candidates to emerge as the main alternative to the former president.