WASHINGTON — As the nation hurtles toward a federal government shutdown, there seems to be no plan to stop it in the U.S. House.
Legislation that funds the federal government expires in about a week, a minute after midnight on Nov. 17. Since neither the U.S. House or U.S. Senate have finished work on all 13 spending bills needed to run the federal government, another stopgap bill is needed or many government operations will stop and tens of thousands of federal workers who remain on the job won’t get paid.
The U.S. Senate is moving forward with a continuing resolution, or CR, that will probably fund the government through mid-December to give lawmakers more time to work on spending bills.
But members of the U.S. House were unable this week to come to an agreement on a short-term measure. One proposal under discussion, confusing even to many Republicans, is a “laddered CR” that would fund part of the federal government through Dec. 7 and the rest through Jan. 19.
One problem with this approach — and a problem for any proposal considered by new House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana — is that ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus members want any stopgap measure to substantially cut spending levels.
The insistence by Freedom Caucus members to attach controversial riders to spending bills has forced GOP leaders to pull two spending bills from the floor this week because those measures lost the support of more moderate Republican members.
“House Republicans pulled two of their extreme funding bills from the House floor because they can’t pass — wasting an entire legislative week with just 9 days until a government shutdown,” Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, a senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, posted Thursday on X. “The only solution is a bipartisan solution to keep the government open.”
It was a bipartisan deal that kept the government from shutting down on Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. But agreeing with Democrats on the terms of that CR that continued to fund the government through Nov. 17 cost former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job. A group of eight GOP lawmakers who were unhappy with the deal forced a vote on McCarthy’s leadership.
Johnson is aware of the dangers that negotiating with Democrats bring, so the prospects of shutdown right now are very, very high.
Fischbach loses bid for leadership job
Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-7th District, who is in her second term of office, lost her bid this week for a U.S. House leadership position.
The No. 5 position in the U.S. House leadership, that of Republican Conference vice chair, was up for grabs when Johnson, the guy who held the job, was voted speaker of the House.
The vice chair is a low-profile, junior leadership position tasked with assisting with the operations of the House GOP conference and communicating the party’s message.
Contests for the job are usually not very competitive. But not this time.
Seven people, including Fischbach, ran for the seat: Reps. Mark Alford of Missouri, Mike Collins of Georgia, Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Brian Mast of Florida, Blake Moore of Utah and Beth Van Duyne of Texas.
After several rounds of secret balloting behind closed doors on Wednesday, Moore came out the winner.
The campaigning had been intense in what became a very hot race for vice chair. Collins distributed lunches from Chick-fil-A, other candidates gave out gourmet cookies and cigars emblazoned with their campaign pitches.
Fischbach’s campaign was more subdued. She ran on her conservative credentials and her “maturity.”
Still, her colleagues preferred a more moderate candidate. Like Fischbach, Moore is a second-term lawmaker who sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. But he’s also the vice chair of the Republican Governance Group, a centrist House GOP caucus.
Fischbach was gracious in defeat.
“Congratulations to my friend, Vice Chair @RepBlakeMoore,” Fischbach wrote on X. “I look forward to working with you in your new role just as I enjoy working with you on Ways and Means.”
Israeli-Hamas conflict roils Congress
The conflict in the Middle East continued to roil Congress this week. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, was among about a dozen progressive House members calling for a ceasefire as Israel escalated its aerial and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip.
“Hostages need to be returned safely and Palestinians deserve to live free from fear and bombardment,” she said. “Most of all, they deserve for us to recognize their humanity.”
Meanwhile, another lawmaker calling for a ceasefire, Palestinian-American Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, was the subject of a censure resolution this week for “promoting false narratives” regarding the Hamas attack on Israel in October and for “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” Tlaib had posted a video of a demonstration in which some in the crowd were chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has been interpreted as a call for the eradication of Israel.
The censure resolution passed on a largely party line vote, 234 to 188. Twenty-two Democrats voted for the censure, including Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, while four Republicans voted against it.
In a floor speech, Tlaib did not mention the offensive phrase and said her focus was a ceasefire. She also urged her colleagues to avoid conflating her criticism of Israel’s government with criticism of Jewish people.
In the Senate, Sen. Tina Smith joined 13 colleagues this week in calling for a short-term cessation of hostilities so humanitarian aid could safely be delivered to Gaza and the hostages seized by Hamas in its violent raid on Israel could be released.
Meanwhile, Congress did not get any further this week on coming to an agreement on how best to provide the $14.3 billion in U.S. military aid President Biden requested from Israel.
Your questions and comments
I wrote again about Rep. Dean Phillips this week, including that he has been missing votes in Congress while he campaigns for president. He also has a second challenger in state Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, who on Thursday announced her candidacy for the 3rd Congressional District alongside Ron Harris, who had announced previously.
A reader sent me an email detailing her disappointment that Phillips is running for president and challenging Biden. Here are some of her thoughts:
“I’m a constituent of Dean Phillips, whom I supported enthusiastically in both his runs. I loathed Erik Paulsen openly and loudly to anyone who came within earshot (or Facebook-shot), and was thrilled when Dean appeared, and WON — a center left person who was clearly sincere, and interested in ramping down the vitriol in Congress, etc.
“I thought he was doing a great job in Congress — voting with Biden, getting together with that group of pro-civility members, holding lots of town halls, hanging out actual constituents at their workplaces (a bit gimmicky, but seemingly sincere).
“And then Dean Phillips started his Quixotic campaign, with his ridiculous explanation: he’s just opening the discussion, just trying to sharpen the Biden campaign. Can he be oblivious to the harm he’s doing to public perception of the president? Not only to fellow Democrats, who should be banding together in an all-hands-on-deck effort, but to the vaunted Independents that everyone’s trying to court?
“Obviously, I’m furious….”
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