Republican infighting makes real the possibility of shutdown 

by Will Tubbs

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


For years now, the federal government has existed in a perpetual state of either being on the verge of or having recently dodged a government shutdown. 

A government shutdown means the end of nonessential government functions and the furlough of nonessential federal employees until the problem is resolved.

Shutdowns have happened before. Democrats proudly allowed a shutdown during the Trump presidency.  

But since President Joe Biden took office, the threat has always seemed to be just that – a hallow coercion tactic Democrats or Republicans have used in a veiled attempt to apply public pressure to their rivals. 

This year, as Congres faces an Oct. 1 shutdown if it doesn’t act, Republican infighting might produce the elements necessary for the threat to become a reality. 

At the heart of the matter is a long-expected clash between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus. 

The problem is easy for even casual observers to understand, but vexing for the most astute political operators to solve. The Freedom Caucus wants significant spending cuts and a dramatic rightward shift in how America does business or its members say they won’t vote yes on a spending package. 

However, Democrats in the Senate won’t back a bill that’s too far to the right, meaning an ever-less-empowered McCarthy finds himself stuck between a pair of obstinate adversaries. 

“Speaker McCarthy is increasing the chance of a shutdown by wasting time on MAGA proposals that will not become law,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted. “It’s an ominous case of déjà vu. Catering to the hard right didn’t work during the Republican default crisis, & it won’t work here in the Republican shutdown crisis.” 

McCarthy has all but ignored Democrats to this point, and is focusing on winning the support of his own party first. After all, with a united Republican House, conservatives will have bargaining power with a Democrat-led Senate, one that will certainly want to avoid saddling Biden with a shutdown on the eve of an election year. 

Progress on that front has been nonexistent, though, and Thursday night, House Republicans broke for the weekend having made no progress in their intraparty negotiations.

The speaker has tried to put a positive spin on it, pointing to Republicans at loggerheads as a sign of a healthy democracy. 

Earlier in the week, he tweeted, “The difference between the Republican House of Representatives vs. the Pelosi era: It’s not one way or the highway. Members of Congress can actually debate ideas. The Speaker of the House no longer dictates every outcome.”

But Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the public face of the anti-McCarthy right, has been on a social media tear against the speaker, accusing McCarthy of playing softball with the left.

“As House members were working on spending bills, @SpeakerMcCarthy was telling people to go home for the weekend at 3pm on a Thursday,” Gaetz tweeted Thursday night. “Pathetic.  Low Energy. This is why we are where we are. Any progress we are making is in spite of, not due to McCarthy.”

There’s no guarantee that a shutdown will eventually come to pass. In politics, there are always 11th-hour deals that might boggle the mind, but punt major debates at least several months down the road. 

There are rumblings that Republican pragmatists will join with their Democrat colleagues and simply outvote the Freedom Caucus. 

“For my colleagues, they have to come to a realization: If they are unable or unwilling to govern, others will,” NBC News quoted Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) as saying. “And in a divided government where you have Democrats controlling the Senate, a Democrat controlling the White House, there needs to be a realization that you’re not going to get everything you want. And just throwing a temper tantrum and stomping your feet, frankly not only is it wrong — it’s pathetic.”

The math in such a scenario would work, and whatever brokered bill made it to the Senate would almost certainly pass since neither upper-chamber Democrats nor the sitting president would want to kill a bill that passed the Republican-led House on the backs of Democrats. 

But there are many steps, and not that many days, between now and a moment when Republicans oust their own party colleagues in favor of the left. 

Come Oct. 1, the answer to the question of whether or not America has a federal government running on a skeleton crew will likely hinge on just how much McCarthy is willing to cede and to whom.