House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tried to quell his raucous caucus by telling them they can’t force a government shutdown while continuing their “Biden crime family” investigations and impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden. He previewed that argument a few weeks ago during a Fox News interview. “If we shut down, all of government shuts it down—investigations and everything else—it hurts the American public,” he said.
Maybe that’s why he decided to let his rabid weasels loose in an impeachment inquiry, thinking they would be so caught up in the bloodthirst that they wouldn’t want it to be derailed by a shutdown. The problem is that McCarthy’s argument is not entirely true, and plenty of the Republican “investigators” intend to keep on chasing their tails, no matter what.
Some of them didn’t even connect the two things until reporters asked them about it. “I have no idea, I’m hopeful that we don’t have that scenario,” Rep. James Comer told The Messenger. He’s the Oversight Committee chair who has to keep publicly admitting that he’s got nuthin’ on the president, despite devoting months and months to the quest. So, yes, it’s totally believable that Comer didn’t even bother to think about whether his pet investigations might be affected.
His counterpart in wild-goose chasing, Rep. Jim Jordan, has thought about it. “We’re gonna do our job no matter what happens,” the Judiciary Committee chair said. He threw in, “We’re not looking to shut down the government.” Seems Jim has some catching up to do with his Freedom Caucus colleagues.
What Jordan isn’t saying is that he would be happy to force his committee staff to continue working during a shutdown, even though they wouldn’t be getting paid. Because that’s how it works. Members of Congress get paid during shutdowns because that’s what the Constitution mandates. Their salaries are not included in the annual appropriations for the legislative branch. Unless that appropriations bill passes before Oct. 1 and a shutdown is averted, the people who work in Congress but aren’t elected members won’t get paid.
Members can deem some of their staff to be “essential” and force them to work without pay during shutdowns. In the case of Comer and Jordan, they could very well decide that their committee staffers have to keep working, which they would have to do without pay until the shutdown gets resolved.
“I’ve never seen a situation where there’s a potential shutdown and this thing running along simultaneously,” Rep. Tom Cole told The Messenger. He’s chair of the Rules Committee. “They certainly couldn’t pay the staffers. At some point, people aren’t coming into work for free, as patriotic as they all are.”
Staffers might not keep coming in, but the impeachment inquiry could keep going, according to one analysis from the last time this threat came up, at the end of 2019. The inquiry likely would continue, because it’s not like the staff would be that essential in “investigating” anyway—there’s no evidence to collect, and no actual crime to probe. Comer and Jordan and their buddies are just making it up as they go along anyway. Paid professionals might just get in their way.
Whether they decide to run with the impeachment inquiry anyway depends on just how self-destructive they’re feeling. Because neither of the two things—impeachment or a government shutdown—are popular with voters. Most Americans don’t think impeachment is warranted, and a large majority are opposed to a shutdown.
If a shutdown happens, Republicans will be blamed. If the only thing Congress is doing while many government services are closed is going after Biden on the basis of unproven and ridiculous conspiracy theories, well, McCarthy might as well just hand the keys to the place over to Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Democrats will have run of the place after 2024.
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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.