The clock is ticking. We’re less than 11 days away before the government funding lapses. Appropriations bills continue to flounder in the House. And the chaos and dysfunction of House Republicans, as many lawmakers — both Democrat and Republican — describe it, is leading the country directly to a now-almost certain shutdown.
A group of far-right House GOP members, in typical fashion, are holding spending bills hostage and refusing to vote for any bill that doesn’t meet every single one of their demands, which include spending cuts far below what GOP leadership agreed to and the curbing of abortion and LGBTQ rights. With the thin majority House Republicans hold, it only takes a handful of them to sink appropriations bills.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could stop trying to give concessions to the hardliners in his caucus and choose to work with Democrats to pass a bipartisan bill. But that would likely lead, as some of the far-right members have been threatening, to a floor vote to oust him from the speakership.
Being in the minority, there’s not much House Democrats can do but wait for Republicans to figure out how to govern. But that is not stopping them from reveling in the very public, ongoing fight within the Republican caucus, making it clear early and often which party is, in fact, in disarray.
“We’re seeing the consequences of limitless dysfunction and chaos,” a senior aide to a House Democrat told TPM. “It’s on full display for the American people to see. It’s clear House GOP has no plan. They’re just hoping for the best at this point. And House Democrats will continue to point to that and the dysfunction that has taken over the GOP.”
And that’s exactly what House Democratic leadership did on Tuesday, opening up a press conference with the sentence: “the MAGA madness in the House continues.”
“We’re happy to work with our Republican colleagues where it meets the needs of the American public. It’s unfortunate that carrying forward in a bipartisan manner is what House Republicans view as a reason to vacate the chair,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA) told reporters, referring to far-right members’ calls to oust McCarthy if he were to work with Democrats to pass spending bills.
“It’s pretty clear the Republican conference is a mess right now and it wouldn’t surprise any of us if any of those members took action to oust him at some point,” Aguilar added.
House Democratic leaders urged similar messaging in a House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) talking points sheet obtained by Politico.
“Extreme MAGA Republicans are plotting a shutdown, pursuing partisan impeachment. House Democrats are putting People Over Politics to grow the middle class,” they wrote.
House Democratic Leadership also pointed to the agreement President Joe Biden and McCarthy came to during the debt ceiling fight, saying that if House Republicans had just stuck to the deal they wouldn’t be in the pickle they are in now.
“This was completely avoidable,” Aguilar said, slamming the short-term funding plan that conservatives and centrists within the Republican Party put together over the weekend. That plan — which failed to gain support from the hardliners within the deeply divided caucus — significantly underwrote the spending levels Biden and McCarthy agreed to months ago.
“What [Democrats] want to do is govern and work for the American people but it’s really hard when folks don’t abide by the agreements that they make,” Aguilar said.
Now even if House Republicans were to come to an agreement and pass the appropriations bills or a stopgap — filled with the concessions MAGA members forced out of the Speaker — they would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The White House and Senate Democrats have joined in on House Democrats’ messaging strategy, letting Republicans dig themselves in a hole and making sure everybody who’s paying attention knows about it.
On Wednesday morning, the White House sent a press release to TPM and other news outlets emphasizing that the “extreme House Republicans’ chaos is marching us toward a government shutdown.”
The lengthy letter listed 10 ways a “Republican shutdown” would impact Americans across the country.
“These consequences are real and avoidable—but only if House Republicans stop playing political games with peoples’ lives and catering to the ideological demands of their most extreme, far-right members,” the White House wrote. “It’s time for House Republicans to abide by the bipartisan budget agreement that a majority of them voted for, keep the government open, and address other urgent needs for the American people.”