An out-of-control GOP is the party of nonstop national crisis
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but congressional Republicans are once again careening toward internal crisis and a damaging government shutdown.
You may remember this song-and-dance from the last four or five times the party’s hard-line Freedom Caucus members held America’s economy hostage. That doesn’t make our latest spin on the roller coaster any less nauseating.
In the past, Republican leaders managed by the slimmest of margins to avert financial catastrophe by working with Democrats to pass temporary funding bills. This time it isn’t even clear they can achieve that minimum level of competence — in part because House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has blown his internal credibility to bits.
Meanwhile, the American people are watching the slow, loud and very public disintegration of Republican unity.
Once again, McCarthy’s own caucus has taken the sledgehammer to his knees. Over the weekend, a dozen Republican lawmakers publicly declared they would oppose the Speaker’s latest effort to keep the government open. Now McCarthy’s legacy risks being defined by the GOP’s transformation into a nonfunctional party of nonstop national crisis.
It isn’t even clear that a sizable minority of Republican lawmakers want to keep the government open. Freedom Caucus stalwarts including Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) dismissed McCarthy’s proposal out of hand without even attempting to offer an alternative. Luna, who recently gave birth and is still in the hospital, went so far as to say she’d leave her recovery bed in order to guarantee McCarthy’s continuing resolution fails.
Luna offers the perfect visual of the current GOP: A lawmaker willing to drag herself out of a hospital bed in order to ensure the federal government does not function.
That’s all the more perverse when you realize a federal shutdown would deny a paycheck to nearly 15,000 Floridian federal workers, as it did in 2019. A shutdown would also grind Federal Housing Authority and Veterans Administration mortgage processing to a halt, slamming the brakes on thousands of Florida homebuyers. If only Luna and her colleagues were so willing to risk their health in ways that actually helped their constituents.
The spat over funding the government also drew Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) into a Twitter scuffle with Gaetz, who called the stopgap plan “a terrible bill” and “one BAD VOTE,” while once again raising the specter of calling a vote to oust McCarthy from his position. Gaetz will find ready allies in House Democrats, who dismissed McCarthy’s 8 percent across-the-board cuts to domestic programs as unserious. Once again, the Speaker of the House finds himself without any allies to advance his agenda.
Even non-Freedom Caucus Republicans are abandoning McCarthy. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) torched the plan in a statement released on Monday, accusing McCarthy of lacking the spine to lead.
“It is a shame that our weak Speaker cannot even commit to having a commission to discuss our looming financial catastrophe,” Spartz wrote. “Our founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves.” Hardly the language of someone likely to support McCarthy if the Freedom Caucus puts forward a vote of no confidence.
There is some truth to Republicans’ many criticisms. A party that rants endlessly about increasing border security can’t, in the same breath, support a resolution that slashes funding for those same border security efforts. That lack of foresight is trademark McCarthy: a plan rushed out under duress, full of internal contradictions and not especially convincing to anyone who matters.
But if McCarthy’s bill is dead-on-arrival, it’s not clear the Freedom Caucus has the support to do any better. A Democratic Senate won’t even glance at the HFC’s even more extreme proposed cuts, and members of their own party are losing patience with their antics. Said Rep. Mike Lawler of New York: “This is not conservative Republicanism. This is stupidity … these people can’t define a win. They don’t know how to take yes for an answer. It’s a clown show.”
In the nine months since taking power in the House, Republicans have only proven capable of careening the nation from one preventable crisis to the next. Eventually their brinksmanship will break down and plunge our nation into a costly, painful government shutdown. Not only is there no one leading the GOP, every effort at unifying them behind a clear policy platform only deepens their bitter fractures. It is worth asking why these types of financial disasters only happen when Republicans control our national purse-strings.
In the end, American voters still appreciate a competent government that looks out for their financial futures. They won’t find that in whatever passes for today’s Republican Party. Instead, they will find lawmakers who have given up on governing in favor of the easy work of grievance politics.
That may offer many soon-to-be-ousted Republicans a lucrative second act in the right-wing media, but it does nothing to solve the problems facing our nation. Whatever Speaker McCarthy may wish to be true, his Republican Party is now undeniably the party of nonstop national crisis. That constant chaos will weigh heavily on voters’ minds next year.
Max Burns is a veteran Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies.
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