House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is desperately trying to avoid the heat over the looming Republican-caused government shutdown and aim it at President Joe Biden instead. When reporters pushed him Tuesday morning over his inability to get his House Republicans in order and avert a shutdown, and asked whether he’d have to turn to Democrats for votes, McCarthy tried to pass the buck and change the subject.
“I think it'd be very important to have a meeting with the president,” McCarthy said. “The president could keep government open by doing something on the border.”
The White House dismissed that out of hand, exactly as they should. "I need to be very clear, it’s up to the speaker to twist in the wind. I mean, seriously ... a deal is a deal," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said. "The president made a deal with the speaker and a bipartisan deal that was voted by two-thirds of House Republicans back in June."
Jean-Pierre is talking about the last time Biden bailed McCarthy out. The two reached a compromise on the debt ceiling, only for McCarthy to later renege on the agreement in order to appease the worst people in his conference. He’s still appeasing them, now agreeing to impossible levels of domestic spending cuts that include, for example, excluding 1 million low-income mothers and young kids from nutrition assistance, cutting home heating assistance by 70% ahead of winter, and an 80% cut to funding for schools in low-income communities.
That won’t do much to bring Biden over to his side, either. McCarthy and his rabid conference think that they can somehow win the messaging fight by making it about immigration instead of the utter chaos in the House Republican conference. That chaos, by the way, continued Tuesday after McCarthy had a long weekend to try to figure out an alternative plan.
The moment has passed because now the Senate is preparing to take over. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer came to the floor Tuesday afternoon to announce that the Senate is close to "a good, sensible and bipartisan bill." Minority Leader Mitch McConnell followed him to the floor, endorsing a "standard, short-term" funding bill.
“Over the weekend, Senate Democrats and Republicans together worked in good faith to reach agreement on a continuing resolution that will keep the government open beyond Sept. 30,” Schumer said. “We are very close to finishing our work and hope to release text very soon.” McConnell said a shutdown “doesn’t strengthen anyone’s political position,” adding, "Government shutdowns are bad news.”
That’s a pretty direct rebuke to McCarthy and his House Republicans. It’s also a direct message to the embattled House speaker that he’s made himself irrelevant in this process. He can keep floundering, or he can take the out that the Senate is about to give him.
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