Political Animal


September 22, 2011 8:00 AM House GOP flubs vote, inches closer to shutdown

By Steve Benen

House Republican leaders had a plan and were fairly confident it would work. Last week, the Senate easily passed emergency disaster funding and urged the House to follow suit. This week, House GOP leaders decided to respond by thumbing their noses at the Senate, including disaster aid in a larger spending bill, offsetting the costs by slashing a clean-energy program, and would tell the Senate to pass the bill or they’d shutdown the government.

All they had to do was pass the larger measure, called a “continuing resolution” (CR), which would keep the government running, and would set the stage for another showdown. Boehner, Cantor, and company thought they had the votes. They didn’t.

The surprise defeat in the House Wednesday of a special funding measure to keep the federal government functioning past Sept. 30 was a sharp rebuke of the GOP leadership that controls the chamber and a testament to the fragility of the majority itself.

The rejection of the measure resurrected the specter of a government shutdown at the end of the month and suggested that the heated confrontations that dominated Washington in the spring and early summer are likely to return this fall.

While it is widely expected that the parties will eventually reach a compromise to avoid a shutdown, Wednesday’s 230-to-195 vote showed what can happen when the GOP majority operates with no more than minimal Democratic support.

It wasn’t especially close, with Republicans coming 23 votes short of passage. In all, nearly every Democrat balked at the bill, under pressure from party leaders, and 48 House Republicans also rejected the measure. For Dems, it was important to reject the CR that played games with emergency disaster relief, and for the 48 GOP lawmakers who voted no, they wanted their caucus to renege on last month’s agreement and push for more spending cuts.

There are plenty of angles to keep in mind — most notably the fact that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) just doesn’t have much control over his radicalized caucus — but perhaps the most pressing issue is the calendar. If Congress doesn’t approve a CR over the next eight days, the government will shut down.

At this point, House Republican leaders have a decision to make. They can:

1. Give up on holding disaster aid hostage, put the Senate’s FEMA bill in the CR, and pass it. The bill would then sail through the Senate and avoid a shutdown, but it would further weaken Boehner’s leadership.

2. Abandon the deal Boehner struck with Democrats last month, cut more spending, and pick up votes from the far-right flank. The Senate would reject this immediately, making a shutdown almost unavoidable. The Speaker’s word would become useless, but the right would be happy.

3. Find some different offsets to pay for disaster relief, which some Dems may find acceptable.

4. Remove disaster aid from the CR altogether, and take the issue up as a separate legislative debate.

A decision will have to be made fairly quickly — the deadline is a week from tomorrow, and Congress is supposed to be out next week.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Live Free or Die on September 22, 2011 8:06 AM:

    I find it amazing that for the past 2 weeks the Dems have been on the offense and the GOP has been on the defense. See what happens when you fight the bully. Also, I noticed the attitude change on this and other blogs. Peeps are in a much better mood than they have been over the last year. My blood pressure has gone down to manageable levels.

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2011 8:11 AM:

    The point of politics is to present to people differing ways of governance.

    The point of politics is not politics.

    But, when stupid voters in this country vote for a party that loves politics, but hates government, then it souldn't be at all surprised when the spectre of shutdown becomes a monthly or weekly occurance.

    Look, I don't like chocolate ice-cream.

    But I don't want to get a job running a chocolate ice-cream company, and then work to run it into the ground so that no one else can enjoy chocolate ice-cream.

  • Live Free or Die on September 22, 2011 8:13 AM:

    @ cundgulag:

    Me too. I do not like chocolate ice cream

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on September 22, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Republicans can:
    Go Fuck themselves. Economy destroying KochSuckers

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2011 8:29 AM:

    Live Free of Die,
    Yes, and that truly puts us in the minority.
    A much ostracized minority.

    I wonder what that, if anything, had to do with making me a Liberal?

  • Fever on September 22, 2011 8:46 AM:

    Donít put words in our mouth. Us Republicans are sticking with the simple and just principal that spending increases have to be matched with spending cuts. Obama campaigned on this very principal.

  • Unstable Isotope on September 22, 2011 8:46 AM:

    Congress is getting ready to take another vacation, and the GOP says unemployment benefits make people lazy.

  • martin on September 22, 2011 8:51 AM:

    Whoo-hoo. The RightWingRepubs have now given us a dysfunctional House to go along with the dysfunctional Senate. We're getting pretty close to the libertarian apocalypse they seem to long for.

  • J on September 22, 2011 8:57 AM:

    As Rachel Maddow remarked about Boehner
    'This man is just not good at his job'.

  • SW on September 22, 2011 8:59 AM:

    Hang tough Dems. Clean disaster relief or a shut-down. Make 'em eat their radicalism. They have the whole country's attention now and we can clean their clocks with it.

  • Brenna on September 22, 2011 9:06 AM:

    I'm wondering if Obama will get dragged into this. To me, it seems clearly a failure on the republican Congress to do their job.

    John Boehner talks a lot about Obama not showing good leadership. When it comes to leadership, Boehner is a first class loser. Just laughable.

  • Alrighty Then on September 22, 2011 9:11 AM:

    3. Find some different offsets to pay for disaster relief, which some Dems may find acceptable.

    I, for one, would find Dept. of Defense offsets to the state of Virginia acceptable.

    Otherwise, like sick-n-effn-tired said, Republicans can go fuck themselves.

  • fostert on September 22, 2011 10:11 AM:

    Why should we even care about disaster relief? It all goes to Red States that say they don't want it. If the Red States want their own people to die, why should we stop them? If we stop funding FEMA, the next census should look better for us.

  • T2 on September 22, 2011 10:27 AM:

    two points: this type of Disaster Aid has never been contested before. The TeaParty is at fault.
    Also, a high % of the disasters have been in Red States, some with governors who routinely call for rejecting Federal help. Until their state is hit, then it's "show me the money". I hope some "moderator" asks Rick Perry about this hypocrisy tonite.

  • LoisMarie on September 22, 2011 10:54 AM:

    As one of eleven kids I was taught by my father that the only way to stop a bully was to push him back. Glad to see the Dems finally figured it out. It sure has put a spring in the step of an awful lot of people-the last time I saw so many smiles on MSNBC was 2008!

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on September 22, 2011 10:56 AM:

    If Bo(eh)ner isn't careful he's going to make Denny Hastert look competent by comparison. Actually, I think he already has.

    Why hasn't Kevin McCarthy's name come up in all this? Isn't it his responsibility to get all the yeas lined up before a vote takes place so that the speaker doesn't look like an idiot?

    I'm predicting that Scotch consumption in the speaker's office is at an all time high these days.

  • LoisMarie on September 22, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Does anyone know where I can get a lcopy of the roll call vote?

  • cmm on September 22, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Oh for f*** sake, that's it.....those are only words I can muster right now...

  • Rich2506 on September 22, 2011 11:27 AM:

    What I find interesting about this case is that I keep remembering all the right-wingers saying "Hey, Democrats had absolute, unfettered control of both Houses and still have one House. They have NO excuse for saying they couldn't fix all of our problems!" But as this example above shows, when one party has a numerical majority, well, it just doesn't mean as much as some people seem to think it means.

  • Trollop on September 22, 2011 11:28 AM:

    I have to laugh whenever I hear the statement "House Republican Leaders"; it's such a twisting of the truth/words.

  • TCinLA on September 22, 2011 12:46 PM:

    Nice to see that Boehner the Koch Sucker and Cantor the Smacktard got their respective asses handed to them.

  • Cha on September 22, 2011 3:36 PM:

    @Fever on September 22, 2011 8:46 AM:

    "Donít put words in our mouth. Us Republicans are sticking with the simple and just principal that spending increases have to be matched with spending cuts. Obama campaigned on this very principal."

    Republicons having no fucking principles except to lie and keep the their wealthy Koch donors to keep from paying their fair share of taxes.

    Fuck the gopricks.

  • exlibra on September 22, 2011 5:33 PM:

    LoisMarie, @10:58

    The link to roll-call was included in Benen's post but here it is in the URL format:

  • patricia munson on September 26, 2011 10:14 AM:

    mean people wpnt get ssi and social security checks that isnt fair to us