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Infighting within the Republican Party is pushing America toward a government shutdown


The Republican Party’s war on itself has turned its inoperative parliamentary majority into a “clown show” and a “dysfunction caucus” and is giving victories to the Chinese Communist Party – and that’s exactly what some of them are saying. its own members.

Days of recriminations between far-right radicals, moderates, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his nihilistic tormentors reached a new peak Tuesday in extraordinary scenes of party infighting on the south side of the U.S. Capitol.

The legislative disaster made clear that there is more at stake than just loosening McCarthy’s grip on a job he has dreamed of for years and whether the Republican Party can fulfill the House’s most fundamental function: establishing a budget to run the country.

The Republican majority’s ridiculous self-harm now increasingly appears to be putting America on the path to a government shutdown before the deadline for new federal funding at the end of next week. That could mean furloughs for federal workers who provide basic services, troops could go unpaid and the possibility of serious damage to an economy that can’t afford further hits if the standoff drags on.

A shutdown — brought on by demands for massive spending cuts from GOP hardliners that they have no hope of forcing through the Senate or getting President Joe Biden to sign, could sour voters on the slim majority of the House they gave to the Republicans in the midterm elections. More broadly, it could raise new doubts about the ability of a polarized nation – with an increasingly extremist and performative Republican Party like former President Donald Trump – to govern itself.

And the chaos could extend beyond the United States. Another failure Tuesday to pass a defense bill raised the possibility that political discord, now and in the future, could hamper U.S. preparedness for a challenge from a rising Chinese superpower. And Ukraine’s fight for survival appears increasingly dependent on the refusal or inability of the House of Representatives to fund a new lifeline of arms and munitions.

What is this impasse about?

McCarthy’s leadership team is still struggling to find a way to pass a stopgap spending bill known as a continuing resolution — or CR — to keep the government open and buy more time to end a Fierce internal conflict over demands for massive spending cuts by hardliners. But there could be enough radicals to prevent the measure from reaching Parliament and demand more concessions.

“I don’t know how they’re going to get to 218,” South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace said, referring to McCarthy’s magic number for passing a bill, after leaving a conference meeting.

In Congress, chaos and discontent often peak just before the fever subsides and a creative solution emerges to fend off a problem weeks later. McCarthy hopes this will be the case by refusing to give up on CR. But the Republican majority is so thin — the speaker can only lose four votes with his current margin — and the party is so deeply divided that past experience can be a poor indicator of results. And for some, a small bloc on the far edge of the pro-Trump conference, the opportunity to shut down a government many of them despise could win them points with base voters and the ex-president and could be an end in itself.

Rep. Mike Simpson, a veteran Idaho lawmaker, lamented the situation in which recalcitrant members can hold the rest of the chamber hostage. He said it was “frustrating that this place is no longer operating.”

Simpson added: “We’re coached by 20 people, but 200 of us agree. … They want their way or the highway. And that’s not how this government works.

Simpson’s comment encapsulates both the reality of the small Republican majority and the fact that Republican radicals essentially reject the premise of divided constitutional government itself. They failed to gain enough public support in the elections to win power – but they are trying to exercise it anyway – an approach that threatens democracy but is consistent with the character of much of their party in the age of Trump.

Could a rapprochement between Republicans and moderate Democrats save the situation?

There is, however, one potential solution that could avert the crisis: an emerging discussion of a rapprochement between a number of moderate House Republicans, whose seats are at risk in 2024, and Democrats, which would extend government funding and could even provide new aid to Ukraine. .

A complex set of maneuvers could get a spending bill out of the House that enough senators from both parties in the Democratic-led Senate could agree on. Yet even this obscure answer is distant. For one thing, relying on the so-called discharge petition would take time to overcome legislative hurdles as the closure deadline approaches.

That means a compromise between Republicans and moderate Democrats might be a more viable option for ending a shutdown than preventing it. It would also require minority Democrats to decide whether to align themselves with Republican lawmakers in states like New York, whom they will target in their bid to retake the majority in 2024. So it might make sense to hand critical Republicans a victory on which the Republican majority depends. a bad strategy. And a partnership could also have the effect of getting McCarthy out of a situation in which his conference appears incapable and dysfunctional and from which Democrats could take advantage.

On the other hand, Democrats might like the idea of ​​hijacking the House chamber and making the speaker seem even weaker. Intrigue over a potential moderate rematch intensified Tuesday after Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, from a swing New York district, said he was open to working with Democrats.

“If the clown show of colleagues who refuse to govern won’t pass the CR, I will do whatever it takes to make sure a CR passes,” Lawler said.

“At the end of the day, we are not shutting down the government,” he added.

In a sign that Democrats are considering their options, their leader Hakeem Jeffries will meet with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus on Wednesday. The group has a bipartisan plan to fund the government by temporarily extending current spending levels and including aid for recent national disasters, funding for Ukraine and some border security provisions. But underscoring potential tensions within the Democratic Party over a possible deal, the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced a meeting to discuss its views on budget negotiations.

The idea of ​​a moderate revolt and bipartisan, multipartisan solutions emanating from the political community has often been raised in an era of hyper-partisan fury in Congress. On odd occasions, they have worked — for example on the infrastructure package passed by President Joe Biden, a victory that eluded his predecessors. But such efforts generally fail on partisan lines. Sometimes they are used as a feint by party members to bluff the more radical members of their conference. And any decision by a handful of Republicans to part ways with McCarthy, who supported them by fundraising and advising them during the midterm elections, would be a difficult decision, personally and politically. It could also make them persona non grata on their own benches.

“If the moderate Republicans sign a discharge petition with the Democrats, they are signing their own political death warrant and they are handing it over to their executioner because it will not be me and the conservatives hunting down the moderates,” the Republican representative said. Florida Matt Gaetz of McCarthy’s. the GOP’s most prominent critic, said. “It will be the Democrats they work with in this scenario.”

And moderate Republicans risk losing their positions. A bill passed by the House with Democratic votes could be the final straw for McCarthy’s enemies and prompt a vote to oust him.

Representative Matt Gaetz speaks as he walks to a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the Capitol September 19, 2023 in Washington, DC.

The plight of a speaker struggling with a razor-thin majority and a rebel conference in a party that rewards extreme agitation rather than legislating and governing was laid bare Tuesday when five conservative members killed an attempt to pass bill ‘a defense bill loaded with GOP priorities. – normally one of the easiest legislative lifts.

“They just handed a victory to the Chinese Communist Party as a result of this vote,” Rep. Mike Garcia, Republican of California and former Navy fighter pilot, told CNN’s Manu Raju.

Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, who represents a Biden swing district, commented to reporters as he headed to the House, “The dysfunction caucus at work.”

The bizarre circumstances of the crisis in the House of Representatives were summed up during an appearance before reporters Tuesday by McCarthy, when tensions appeared to escalate when he was asked about aid to Ukraine – which Biden warned Tuesday at the United Nations that it was essential to winning a war that will spill far beyond its current footprint amid Russian expansionism if the United States abandons Kiev.

“Was Zelensky elected to Congress?” Is he our president? I don’t think so,” McCarthy said, in a striking outburst against a Washington ally waging a war for his country’s survival. Zelensky will be at the Capitol on Thursday, on a mission to boost the delivery of U.S. aid that his country desperately needs.

Even to a leader of a war zone constantly under attack by Russian drones and missiles, Washington’s complete inability to govern itself will likely look like dysfunction and riot.

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