The House Republicans’ shutdown politics are dumb and dumber

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by reporters looking for updates on plans to fund the government and avert a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The House Republicans' shutdown politics are dumb and dumber

Op-Ed,Election 2024

Jackie Calmes

Sept. 22, 2023

For years, I stalked the Capitol halls amid Congress’ fiscal-year-end follies, waiting with other reporters for a breakthrough to end the


faux crisis. Im hard-pressed to recall a budget fight so politically self-defeating as the one now cleaving the House waged for stupid reasons by stupid people.

And lest that sound too harsh, I defer to New York Rep. Mike Lawler, speaking to reporters about his fellow Republicans whove provoked the current chaos: This is stupidity, Lawler said. Its a clown show, he added, the inevitable result of running lunatics for Congress.

Yup, the lunatics are fully in charge of Kevin McCarthys asylum, a.k.a. the House of Representatives. Speaker McCarthy


most definitely is


in control, so Congress is careening toward an almost-certain government shutdown at the end of next week. Hes in a box, in fact, with no way out that doesnt risk his being cashiered as speaker in a right-wing putsch.

Even if he survives, McCarthy could well forfeit the speakership after the 2024 elections: House Republicans MAGA mayhem and extremism (Impeach Joe Biden! Culture wars!) threaten to cost them the thin majority they won only last year.

Youd think theyd learn from the example of Senate Republicans, whove provided a contrast of pragmatism and relative moderation. (

Okay, OK,

there is Alabamas Sen. Tommy Coach Tuberville, the one-man national security threat.) The same political analysts now downgrading House Republicans election chances have Senate Republicans favored to move from a minority to the majority in 24.

McCarthy tries to use the fact that his majority is at risk

that either House Republicans

hang together or too many of them will hang separately to corral

the crackpots.crazies.

But theres no reasoning with the unreasonable.

Theres no appealing for unity with narcissistic ideologues, such as Floridas Rep. Matt Gaetz, who are more concerned about their own MAGA fandom and Fox News hits than about the country or their vulnerable party colleagues in swing districts.

Take it from the frustrated conservatives behind the Wall Street Journals editorial page: Too many Republicans apparently come to Washington these days mainly to blow things up and count their TikTok followers.

The House Republicans worsening 2024 prospects are the partys longer-term worry. Heres McCarthys immediate dilemma: Given the nihilists knee-jerk opposition to just about any spending, he will ultimately need Democrats votes to help pass government-funding legislation that is acceptable to the Senate and President Biden.

As it stands, he can’t muster enough Republican votes to pass even a 30-day stopgap measure to keep federal operations funded past Sept. 30, when current spending ends with the fiscal year. Such measures typically have been relatively uncontroversial


budget wrestling matches, allowing negotiations to continue without a shutdown.

But compromising to get Democrats votes is anathema to the extremists: Theyve vowed to force a vote dethroning McCarthy should he do so.

Poor Kevin. If he doesnt make deals with Democrats, he and his party will be blamed for a shutdown and for all the late federal payments, lapsed services, disrupted public works and closed federal offices that result. But if he cuts a deal, he could very well be toast as speaker. Dont feel sorry for him, however. McCarthy sold his soul for his dream job, and to the very mutineers now seeking to sink him.

Theyre bound to lose in the end. The government must carry on, and the president, the saner Senate and, yes, some bipartisan configuration of House members ultimately will see that it does, however long that takes. You’d think the House renegades would care that they look stupid. The legislative dynamic here is so basic so Civics 101, as the Journal editorial noted and yet some of these House Republicans just cant seem to grasp it.

Think about it: The

kamikazes extremists

won’t let Congress simply buy the time need


to reach a final agreement. They want to have the fights now with just a week to go before midnight, Sept. 30

over program spending levels

and divisive amendments about Ukraine aid, abortion rights and immigration. Which makes a shutdown virtually inevitable.

The extremists seem to believe they have unlimited legislative leverage to force their far-right demands into law. They dont. The naysayers moronic efforts were captured by this headline in Politico: House GOP in open warfare over doomed spending plan. Lets say they somehow managed to prevail on their home turf of the House, theyd be stopped cold by Senate Democrats, backed by some Republican senators, and the veto-wielding Biden.

Perhaps they could take a refresher class on How a bill becomes law. Or watch the classic Schoolhouse Rock! video sing-along version. Or simply go to the Houses own website, where the clerk has a nifty primer for grade-school students.

Never mind. The naysayers dont care if they fail: In todays Trumpian Republican Party, its all about the fight, all about owning the libs. It’s not like the extremists will pay a price for their intransigence. They generally reflect the combativeness of Republican voters in their safe, gerrymandered districts, who are likewise spoiling to tear Washington apart, no matter how destructive that is.

Whats unfortunate is that the Republicans who could well lose next year are among the partys

more rationalleast crazy

members, the ones from swing districts, where voters recoil at Republican extremism. Because


not stupid.