UPDATE: Joan McCarter
For the record, Johnsons’ office says he’s not in Paris today. We’re awaiting confirmation either way.
Some things you just can’t make up. The federal government is one week away from a shutdown, and the Republican-led House wasted another (short) week failing to pass appropriations bills. The kicker? New House Speaker “MAGA” Mike Johnson has swanned off to Paris for the inaugural Republicans Overseas Worldwide Freedom Initiative conference, where he’s a star speaker.
The first two weeks of Johnson’s sparkly new speakership not only have nothing to show for the time, but have contained real disasters like having to pull major funding bills off of the floor at the last minute. The lowest bar for competence in a speaker is putting bills on the floor with enough votes to pass. Only a notch or two above that bar is the ability to avoid shutting down the government. That’s where this week gets even more preposterous: “MAGA Mike” has no plan for how to do that. Oh, excuse me—no “real” plan.
As far as anyone knows, Johnson is still wedded to the wacky idea of a “laddered” continuing resolution, which would stagger funding expiration dates (and their related threats of government shutdown). It’s a problem that even House leadership doesn’t know whether that’s the plan. It likely means Johnson has been spending more time polishing up his speech for Paris than he’s spent trying to avoid the impending catastrophe.
By all accounts, Johnson is sold on the laddered CR and is trying to win support for it. Right now only the Freedom Caucus likes it; after all, they came up with it. He’s trying to allay fears that having multiple shutdown deadlines for various government agencies somehow won’t be a problem, because he’s talking about only two steps on the ladder. That is to say, some programs would have a December deadline and others a January deadline. That means he essentially wants to double the shutdown threat. Comforting.
Everyone but the Freedom Caucus is skeptical at best. In the Senate—the other essential half of passing a funding bill—they’re not mincing words. “That’s the craziest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Sen. Patty Murray told reporters this week. The Washington Democrat leads the Senate Appropriations Committee. Her Republican counterpart, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, attempted to be charitable to the GOP speaker, saying, “I have a lot of reservations. I don’t see how that would work, and it seems unnecessarily complex,” but added she’s “willing to hear more about it.”
Johnson better enjoy Paris while he can. It’s the only honeymoon he’s getting, and the clock is ticking. “I think there’s a honeymoon period here. I’m not sure how long it lasts, maybe 30 days,” Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky told CNN. “With what’s going on the floor today, I think that indicates the honeymoon might be shorter than we thought. And every time the CR expires, the speaker is putting his head in the lion’s mouth.”
Déjà vu: Chaotic House takes government to the brink of shutdown
See MAGA Mike Johnson’s wacky ideas for how to do government
House Republicans’ disarray deepens on funding bills