Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell just knocked the Big Top blocks out from under House GOP Circus Ringmaster Kevin McCarthy.
Senate Republicans and Democrats reached agreement on Tuesday on a stopgap spending plan that would head off a government shutdown on Sunday while providing billions in disaster relief and aid to Ukraine, but the measure faced resistance in the Republican-led House.
The legislation cleared its first procedural obstacle Tuesday night on a bipartisan vote of 77 to 19. It would keep government funding flowing through Nov. 17 to allow more time for negotiations over yearlong spending bills and provide about $6 billion for the Ukraine war effort as well as approximately $6 billion for disaster relief in the wake of a series of wildfires and floods.
Senate leaders hoped to pass it by the end of the week and send it to the House in time to avert a shutdown now set to begin at midnight Saturday. But there was no guarantee that Speaker Kevin McCarthy would bring the legislation to the House floor for a vote, since some far-right Republicans have said they would try to remove him from his post if he did.
Still, in putting the legislation forward, Senate leaders in both parties were ratcheting up the pressure on Mr. McCarthy, who has failed to put together a temporary spending plan of his own.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said the Senate agreement “will continue to fund the government at present levels while maintaining our commitment to Ukraine’s security and humanitarian needs while also ensuring those impacted by disasters across the country begin to get the resources they need.”
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, urged her colleagues to support the plan, warning that shutdowns “do not accomplish the goals that people who advocate government shutdowns think will be accomplished.”
“I’ve been through two government shutdowns,” Ms. Collins said, “and I can tell you they are never good policy.”
The Senate proposal would meet stiff resistance from House Republicans because it includes assistance for Ukraine that many of them oppose and maintains federal funding at current levels. Many House Republicans are demanding steep cuts in even an interim funding plan. As a result, Mr. McCarthy would need Democratic votes to pass it, and leaning on Democrats would stir a backlash from his own party.
Mr. McCarthy on Tuesday told reporters at the Capitol that he would not address “hypotheticals” about whether he would put a stopgap plan passed by the Senate to a vote on the House floor. He and his deputies were toiling ahead of a scheduled vote on Tuesday evening to round up support to allow a group of yearlong spending bills to come to the floor for debate, even as a group of hard-right Republicans vowed to continue blocking them.
“I heard all this time, they’re going to pass appropriations bills all month,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters at a separate news conference later in the day. “Remember, you all wrote about it? They were the good chamber. So when they pass something, come back and ask.”
Boy, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the circus boxcar hammock, didn't he?
Still, McCarthy has nobody to blame but himself. He's no longer Speaker but in name only, and if he tries to bring the bill to a House floor vote, he may get removed before he can do it. I don't expect Hakeem Jeffries will help McCarthy out of the Big Top until after the Senate stopgap bill gets passed in the House, but that leaves us with six weeks to figure out who's replacing him.
Of course, McCarthy's a coward, and that means he may let the government shut down anyway.
We'll see. The Senate bill has to pass first before anything happens.
Of course, then we get to have the new fight with the new Ringmaster.