For once, the Senate was working well. The Appropriations Committee passed all 12 of the required spending bills with bipartisan support back in July. The full Senate was set to approve a “minibus” spending package of three of those bills this week, which would fund the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development. In fact, senators agreed to bring the bill to the floor in a 91-7 vote early Thursday. They had an agreed-upon set of amendments, equally divided between the two parties, ready to be approved as a block.
Enter Sen. Ron Johnson, who just had to show the world that the obstructionist House Freedom Caucus has nothing on him. When Appropriations Chair Patty Murray asked for unanimous consent to adopt the amendments package, Johnson objected and effectively shut the Senate down for the day, since it can’t move the base bill until amendments are approved. The Wisconsin senator’s rationale is, well, not really rational.
“This place is completely out of control, completely dysfunctional,” Johnson explained incoherently after totally disrupting the functions of the Senate. He added that he was objecting to moving forward on amendments because all of this should have been done before August recess, “through an orderly process one appropriation bill at a time.” That means no combined bills at all, and no big “omnibus” appropriations package that has to be pushed through at the last minute because Congress is running out of time.
Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, explained the clear hole in her fellow Republican senator’s logic. Johnson’s stunt is going to cause delays that will almost certainly force the Senate to have to pass an omnibus bill or worse, the Maine senator said. “We don’t have time to take each bill individually to the floor or we’re going to end up with either an omnibus, a government shutdown or a yearlong continuing resolution, which would fund programs that shouldn’t be funded anymore and prevent new programs from starting up,” Collins said.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plan for the Senate was essentially to get these three minibus spending bills approved and ready to go to the House, while also working with Speaker Kevin McCarthy on a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government operating after Oct. 1, when current funding runs out. So much for that plan.
It turns out that Johnson isn’t the only nihilist intending to aid and abet the House extremists who are hellbent on shutting the government down. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana told Axios that there are “seven or eight” Republican senators prepared to gum up the works with objections, and each of them has some separate demand. The list includes usual suspects like Missouri’s Josh Hawley and Florida’s Rick Scott.
“MAGA Republicanism seems to be taking over the Republican Party,” an angry Schumer said after Johnson’s antics. “And now all of a sudden you have a group, a small group in the Senate, trying to mimic the Freedom Caucus in the House and holding up the defense bill, which had huge bipartisan support,” he said. “Republican leaders have to reject this MAGA Republicanism for the good of the country and for the good of their party.”
He’s not wrong. But if he’s counting on Republican leaders—whoever that might be at this point—to fix it, it looks like he’s going to be in for a disappointment.
House hardliners brag about 'chaos' as government shutdown looms
McCarthy facing ‘perfect storm,’ warns Freedom Caucus member
House Republican extremists look like they want a government shutdown
What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.