Earlier this week, congressional Republicans cooked up a scheme to force Democrats either to give up some of their leverage over an omnibus spending deal or risk getting blamed for triggering a government shutdown. The idea was to drop earlier plans for passing a very short-term stopgap spending bill when the last one expired on December 8, and instead call for a vote to extend spending into January. Republicans felt they’d have more leeway to wheel and deal without distractions given a longer time to do so, while embarrassing Democrats who had pledged not to vote for any spending bills that didn’t include protections for Dreamers. And if Democrats went to the mattresses and shut down the government — well, at least they’d clearly get the blame.
But now Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are sheepishly shelving this strategy, and not because Democrats caved or stood up on their hind legs and defied them. No, it was friendly fire from their own defense hawks that thwarted them, as Politico explains:
[T]heir own members upended that strategy almost immediately: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) put his foot down, telling GOP leaders that defense hawks would not start 2018 without a budget boost for the Pentagon.
That sent leadership back to the drawing board. Now, the latest strategy includes passing two short-term funding bills or “continuing resolutions” to keep the government running at current levels until a bigger spending deal is reached. House GOP whips told vote-counters in a closed-door meeting Thursday morning that the first would extend government funding from Dec. 8 to Dec. 22; the second would likely last until sometime in January.
And that second stopgap bill, presumably, will include more money for the Pentagon and probably some sort of goodies Democrats want, whether or not it’s a deal on Dreamers. And instead of luxuriating through the holidays (assuming the tax bill is done) before things get serious in January, GOP leaders could be fighting a two-front battle on spending against Democrats and defense hawks, even as other Americans are enjoying the holidays.
Other Republicans are not pleased:
The lack of a clear strategy has unnerved conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus as well as appropriators. Both groups preferred to keep the government on auto-pilot into January, convinced it would give Republicans more leverage to strike a better deal with Democrats.
But now GOP leaders will set a funding deadline just before Christmas.
Ho ho ho.