With the current government budget set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning, Congress passed a two-week spending extension bill, averting a partial government shutdown that few saw as likely. Some level of Democratic cooperation will be needed in order to pass the two-year spending resolution that is considered the long-term goal of both parties, but with negotiations on that bill continuing to be predictably slow and contentious, the two-week measure was passed as an interim measure.
But with the right and left at odds about seemingly everything, and reports stating that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi won’t pass a spending bill unless amnesty for dreamers is included as a caveat, it’s fair to wonder how many two-week, patch spending bills lie ahead before a resolution is reached. The current bill, passed Thursday, runs through December 22nd, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said it’s unlikely that a two-year resolution is unlikely to be passed before year’s end.
This means at least one more stopgap spending bill will be required in order to make it through the New Year, and those that think a change in the calendar year will serve as some sort of bonding moment between Democrats and Republicans are out of their minds. Unless the Republican Freedom Caucus, led by the ever-vocal Rand Paul, decides to risk being blamed for a government shutdown in refusing to cooperate with a slew of two-week spending bills, it’s fair to wonder whether this is a new normal.
Make no mistake about it, the Democrats are more than happy to sit on their hands until their demands are met, continuing this tenuous status quo until they receive promises, in writing, regarding amnesty and Obamacare. While Republican leadership is going to play ‘hardball’, their version of hardball has never been quite as hard as the Democrats.
Nancy Pelosi has said that they won’t be willing to leave Capitol Hill for the holidays unless guarantees regarding the status of dreamers are granted. She initially meant this as a threat that Democratic leadership would not vote to put Thursday’s spending bill in place, which they eventually passed thanks to the votes of 14 Democrats. It’s likely that the Dems had votes in place, allowing Pelosi to maintain her role as the chief co-opposer, along with Chuck Schumer, as they stump for amnesty by year’s end.
The roadblocks that lie in front of a long-term spending bill are significant. If issues as polarizing as immigration and Obamacare did not seem daunting enough, consider that Democrats appear poised to insist that any increase of the defense budget must be matched by non-budgetary spending. According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘Republicans are pushing for $54 billion more in defense funding a year. Democrats want to ensure a comparable increase for nondefense spending, according to aides.’ In the meantime, both sides have made clear that keeping the government up and running, if only for personal aims, is in their interest.
“We want to keep government open,” Ms. Pelosi said last week. “That’s what we are about.”
“Look, there’s not going to be a government shutdown,” Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell told ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s just not going to happen.”
An agreement on the budget, which will likely come with all kinds of last-minute stipulations from both sides, primarily Democrats, must then be followed by a new spending bill. This is not a short-order process, with speaker Paul Ryan and the Journal acknowledging the reality that more stopgap measures are almost certain to come, with no real payoff for the American people. Unless, of course, the average American considers an estimated $108 billion in spending, on military and Democrat causes, to be a win.
Spoiler: they don’t consider it a win. It’s a major loss, especially considering all the dramatics that have preceded a still unrealized outcome. This is why American are so disenchanted with the American political system, and now many Trump supporters with his promises of change. Remember when Barack Obama promised the exact same change? Trump’s promises seem almost as laughable already, even if he still appears to be the lesser of the two evils.
Yet, this is the reality we face.
‘“That takes weeks to do and you want to do it right,” Mr. Ryan said.
That means that Congress will likely have to pass another stopgap spending bill in late December funding the government through some portion of January.
“We’re still working on trying to make sure we don’t get a terrible spending bill with unbelievably high numbers” later this month, Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen House conservatives, said this week.
“We’re playing three-dimensional chess four moves out.”’ (WSJ)
As the bureaucrats in Washington continue their interminable game of 3-D chess, the American people have left the table, their heads shaking as they realize that nothing has changed.