It was a gloriously awful night for Republicans nationally and in the House of Representatives. While Democrats were racking up election wins across the country and in positions from school boards to statehouses, House Speaker Mike Johnson had to pull another funding bill from the floor because it couldn’t pass with just Republican votes.
The Transportation-HUD appropriations bill approved by the committee cuts Amtrak funding by 64% from the current budget, and 76% from what was authorized in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act. New York Republicans rebelled. “I think that many of us are comfortable, reining in federal spending, but not disproportionately impacting our region,” GOP Rep. Marc Molinaro told The Hill, with cuts that “are just too significant.” Leadership did not reschedule the vote for Wednesday, suggesting they’ve got a lot of fighting to do to figure that one out.
That might be subordinate to their little problem of having no clue what they’re going to do about the looming deadline to fund the government, now just nine days away. Literally. “[W]ith nine days until a potential shutdown, even [Johnson’s] own leadership team is still wondering what the plan is going to be,” Politico reports. The big meeting the conference had on Tuesday only compounded the confusion.
“There's too many ideas right now, which is fine — the speaker wants us to have an open forum to debate it,” said Rep. Richard McCormick (R-Ga.). “But now there's so many ideas, we have to figure out how to whittle it down.”
Other lawmakers were more direct. One GOP member, granted anonymity to speak frankly, called the meeting a “train wreck,” while Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) described the path forward as “clear as mud.”
By all reports, Johnson is leaning toward the ridiculous Freedom Caucus “laddered” continuing resolution to keep government funding flowing in chunks, with part of the government funded through Dec. 7 and the rest through Jan. 17. That’s not going over so well with the senior members who have been doing the job of appropriating funds for years and just want the most straightforward path to not shutting the government down.
“To me, you do a clean [continuing resolution], you don’t try to jam anybody,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a senior Republican appropriator, told Politico. “Anything you put on there should be the things the two sides can agree to.”
That’s a diplomatic way of putting it. One senior GOP aide was a little more astringent about the idea: “You don’t like one fiscal cliff? Cool. Here’s a dozen fiscal cliffs. Have fun.”
Johnson needs to figure this out by this Friday to have enough time to get some kind of funding mechanism to the floor next week, and after Tuesday’s elections, it seems like his choice would be a little bit easier. Don’t make things even worse for Republicans by forcing more chaos on them with crazy ideas from the Freedom Caucus.
He’s still in his honeymoon period with the conference. He can afford to do the right thing for the country (and ultimately his majority) by just averting the threat of a shutdown and working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a clean CR.
It would also be a good time for those Biden 18 members to reevaluate what they want and what power they could claim with the new regime. They’ve got to be looking at Tuesday night's results with terror in their electoral hearts. At the same time, the New York contingent had a minor victory in forcing the transportation bill off the floor. Maybe they’ll take those combined lessons and start using their controlling bloc of votes.
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