Paul Ryan
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

This is a truly bad idea:

In a closed-door GOP conference meeting Friday morning, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said all 12 appropriations bills will be finished in committee by the end of next week. Starting Monday, leadership will begin a tentative whip count on whether lawmakers would vote for a package before the August recess that combines all of those bills into one $1 trillion government funding bill.

These are appropriations bills that have no prospect of becoming law for the simple reason that they must be melded with Senate versions, and the Senate versions need to gain the approval of at least eight Democratic senators.

The House Appropriations bills are more aspirational. They’re almost like a budget bill that lays out priorities and principles for the party but don’t have the force of law. They obviously include crippling cuts to popular programs, and asking lawmakers to vote for these bills and on all the accompanying Democratic troublemaking amendments will just needlessly imperil their reelection efforts.

But it’s dumber that just this. Part of the idea is that it will let rank-and-file conservatives let off a little pent-up steam.

The idea, first proposed by Rep. Tom Graves, a senior appropriator, is to give House Republicans a chance to pass a red-meat spending bill that will lay out GOP priorities. Though the bill would never pass the Senate in the face of Democratic opposition, the process would allow House Republicans to offer potentially hundreds of amendments, an exercise that excites members who are frustrated that they’ve had no input on how to fund the government.

These amendments will mean nothing. They’ll mostly be deeply unpopular. It’s as if the Republican leadership is signing off on a plan for the backbenchers to troll their vulnerable members.

And it get’s even worse:

Perhaps more worrisome: The bill might fail on the floor, which would provoke another flood of damaging headlines about the GOP’s deep divisions and inability govern…

…That’s why GOP leaders want the conference to commit to passing the final bill — whatever it looks like — before they move down this path. McCarthy asked members to read the various spending bills over the weekend and be ready to give leadership feedback next week.

Leadership has reminded members that they won’t get everything they want, and if their amendments or ideas fail on the floor, they should be ready to support the final version anyway.

Getting such a commitment from members, however, could be difficult since they will want to see the final product before committing to vote for it.

They want their members to spend the weekend reading 12 massive appropriations bills and then commit to a vote on all of them regardless of what may be introduced during the amendment process.

Think about this. A lot of these members are upset that they’ve had no say in the crafting of these spending bills so they’ll be allowed to offer endless amendments. But then they’ll be asked to give up all their leverage on the front-end, basically ensuring that they have no say. And all for a bill that may not even pass the House let alone become the law.

Even moderate leader Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania is acting like he’s not getting enough oxygen to his brain:

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa), a centrist Republican on the Appropriations committee, expressed concern that some of the bills called for unrealistically low spending levels, which would run into opposition in the Senate.

But he said he would support a bundled funding package, in part because it would include the bill funding military construction and veterans programs that his subcommittee wrote.

“I’m in the bus,” he joked. “I’m the leadoff hitter.”

Dent also lamented that many of the hard-line Republicans who back this spending package will ultimately oppose the final plan that can pass both chambers of Congress.

“If this gets me to an agreement in the end, to the real numbers, I can deal with it,” Dent said. “But the point is … my frustration is, there are people who will vote for the takeoff, for the initial launch, but they’ll be nowhere to be found for the landing, for the real bill that matters.”

He knows that this is all theater but he’s signing up for it anyway even though he knows that in the end the conservatives won’t be there to vote for their own spending bills.

And when that happens, Paul Ryan has to rip it all up and go crawling to Nancy Pelosi to avoid a government shutdown.

In the end, all that is accomplished is a demonstration of ineptitude and lack of unity combined with dozens of damaging roll call votes.

This is what passes for strategy with the Republicans as they do everything they can think to delay the moment when they have to ask the Democrats to help them govern.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at