Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would begin negotiations with Democrats to prevent a government shutdown in September.
The majority leader vowed there would not be another shutdown on his watch — but it could be difficult to avoid, given the long list of thorny issues he will have to tackle this fall.
Funding for the government is set to run out at the end of September, and Democrats and the White House want to increase defense and nondefense spending.
Some Republicans are also demanding new defense spending, and many GOP lawmakers and Republicans running for president want to defund Planned Parenthood. The debt ceiling is also going to have to be lifted later this year.
As usual, McConnell has been playing his cards close to the vest. But his main goal is to minimize drama and maintain the Senate Republican majority in 2016. Messy fiscal fights could increase the chances Democrats win back the upper chamber.
The Kentucky Republican hasn’t told colleagues of his endgame plans, but they suspect he is angling for a yearlong spending measure that would allow him to sidestep a fight over busting the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“Whatever minimizes the drama, because Mitch is not a big fan of drama,” said a Republican senator who requested anonymity.
Mitch wants this battle out of his hair. I'm betting the four GOP senators running for the White House aren't going to be much help in the new Trump Party. BooMan calls it what it is: capitulation.
He’ll need the Democrats to go along with his plan, in both the Senate and the House. And he’ll have to let his own caucus vote on a bunch of riders to do things like ban spending on Planned Parenthood, kill Obamacare (again), declare Iran the second coming of the Third Reich, and obliterate the Environmental Protection Agency. But, since the only way the Republicans could conceivably prevail on any of those issues is to shut down the government and pray for a miracle, McConnell doesn’t really give a shit about them. He’s not interested in another government shutdown that yields nothing but aggravated voters and higher disapproval numbers for his party.
However, he’s going to have to contend with 17 presidential contenders braying at him to fight, fight, fight, as well as constant bellowing about what a sellout he is and how Washington Republicans never keep their promises. The only thing he has going for him, besides reality, is that he’s not Speaker Boehner. He can hide behind Democratic filibusters, for example, and he doesn’t have 150 members who make Michele Bachmann look statesmanlike. Boehner will deliver a conservative heat-fever wish list of a budget and then have to turn around and sell McConnell’s nothing burger to his caucus.
And, of course, the House Republicans won’t go for it. At all. So, Boehner will have to go hat in hand (again) to Nancy Pelosi and beg her to deliver her caucus.
Pelosi, of course, wants nothing more than another government shutdown, provided that she can avoid taking much blame for it. So, her inclination to give Boehner some kind of fig leaf to disguise his humiliation will be limited. And, yet, with all these presidential candidates claiming that if we just elect them things will magically get done the way that conservatives want them done, Boehner will have a tough sell to explain why a Republican-led House and a Republican-led Senate cannot accomplish even one item on their insane wish list.
What McConnell’s trying to do is preemptively accept a harsh reality, but he’s going to have very few supporters and they’ll be quieter than church mice.
We all know where the game ends: the budget passes that President Obama and Nancy Pelosi want. The question is how much damage is done to the place on the way through bat country.