When the House Republicans’ temporary spending measure (or CR, for “continuing resolution”) failed on Wednesday night, the GOP leadership effectively had two broad options. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could move to the middle, stop playing games with emergency disaster relief, pick up Democratic votes, and resolve the dispute. The threat of a government shutdown would disappear, and lawmakers could enjoy a week off.
Or Boehner and Republican leaders could move to the right, make the spending bill worse, pass a plan they know will be rejected, and invite another government shutdown crisis.
Which course did the GOP leadership choose? Take a wild guess.
Washington lurched toward another potential government shutdown crisis Friday, as the House approved a Republican-authored short-term funding measure designed to keep government running through Nov. 18 that Democrats in the Senate immediately vowed to reject.
In an after-midnight roll call, House Republican leaders persuaded conservatives early Friday morning to support a stop-gap bill nearly identical to one they had rejected just 30 hours earlier.
“Nearly identical,” but not entirely. Boehner and Republican leaders followed through on their threat to hold disaster aid hostage, but bought off some far-right votes by adding $100 million in cuts to a Department of Energy loan program the GOP loved until a few weeks ago.
So, instead of trying to reach a sensible compromise, the Speaker and his team deliberately chose to invite yet another standoff that threatens to shut down the government. Indeed, GOP officials told reporters last night they would promptly leave town today to make the threat more explicit — either the Senate approves the House bill or the government shuts down in seven days, because House members won’t be around to even try to reach a deal.
Of course, Senate leaders are saying exactly what they’ve been saying all along: they’re not going to pass the House bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will kill the House version today, and will probably urge House leaders to stick around and do their jobs rather than leave town.
All of this, by the way, is just to keep the government’s lights on until November. Americans, for whatever reason, have elected ill-tempered, right-wing children to run the House of Representatives, and the result is not only one crisis followed by another, but a government that struggles badly to even complete the most basic of tasks. Indeed, yesterday, GOP leaders could have very easily chosen a more responsible course and ended the burgeoning fiasco, but they made matters worse on purpose.
If House Republicans do promptly flee to the airport today, and the Senate rejects the House measure as expected, President Obama will likely call members back to Washington early next week. The shutdown deadline is Friday, Sept. 30, at midnight.