Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Johnson Screwed Up

We don't normally go to highly partisan news sources like Fox News or Daily Kos for news, although we sometimes go there to see the reaction of the right or left to some news story we found elsewhere. Once in a blue moon, though, we find something there that is actually news that everybody else missed. It's rare, but it happens. This appears to be one of those times.

You undoubtedly now know about the two-stage rocket Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) devised for not shutting the government down now. One can got kicked to Jan. 19 and the other can got kicked to Feb. 2. Everyone is proclaiming Johnson the greatest political genius since James Monroe or John Locke. Or maybe Niccolò Machiavelli. We never saw any explanation of why two separate dates was better than one. After all, there is no agreement between the Democrats and the Republicans on anything, and also no agreement between Republicans and Republicans on anything. What difference does it make if the mother of all shutdowns occurs in January or February? Who cares if there is one deadline or two?

Well, according to an item on Daily Kos, there was method to Johnson's scheme. A lot of method. It was near genius. But he blew it.

The thing you need to understand is that Republicans care about some departments but not about others. They very much care about military spending, the border patrol, farm subsidies, and a couple of other items. They actively oppose most of the social spending, like HUD and education. Johnson's plan was as clever as it was sneaky. The things Republicans really care about would be extended to Jan. 19. These things had to pass because not funding them would mean no money for the military and DHS, so soldiers and the border patrol agents would have to work without pay. These things had to be funded or the Republicans would catch hell. So the plan was to make some deal on Jan. 18 to fund them, possibly at the same level as last year or maybe with a small increase.

Once that was all finished and approved by the Senate and White House, the Republican priorities would be safe. Come Feb. 1, the Republicans would demand 30% cuts in the social spending and when Democrats balked, those programs would be halted. Republicans would be happy if they were never funded and would hold out for 30% cuts until the cows came home. In the end, they might not get 30%, but eventually Democrats would cave and they'd "compromise" on a 15% cut. That was the plan. It makes sense and explains the idea of the two-stage rocket.

But something happened. During the legislative process, multiple drafts written by different staffers often circulate as the sausage is being made. Members propose and pitch their versions and argue about them. Horses are traded. That's how it works. Somehow, and we are not sure how, when Johnson began calling the roll on the plan, he called for a vote on a plan different from the one he had in mind. It had the Agriculture, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and HUD budgets on the group 1 (Jan. 19) along with the FDA, energy, water, and military construction. Everything else was in group 2 on Feb. 2. Johnson missed the fact that he was holding a vote on the wrong bill. It passed, was sent to the Senate, passed there too, and Joe Biden signed it. By the time Johnson realized what had happened, it was too late.

Group 1 (Jan. 19) has some things Republicans want, like Agriculture (farm subsidies) and Veterans Affairs, so they will have to make a deal to pass it when it comes up again. But Group 2 (Feb. 2) has Defense and Homeland Security, things Republicans really care about. If they refuse to make a deal on Feb. 1, soldiers and border patrol agents won't be paid and their base will go bonkers. The Republicans won't be able to hold out for 30% cuts for long. They will have to agree to some deal the Democrats are willing to accept. There will be heavy-duty negotiations but no hostage situation since Republicans care dearly about some of the items in Group 2. Johnson got snookered.

How did this switcheroo happen? Nobody seems to know. Did some low-level staffer fire up Microsoft Word and make a couple of edits to the bill 5 minutes before voting started? MAGAworld wants to know who the mole was, but the mole ain't talking. Maybe Johnson himself screwed up by picking the wrong bill number to vote on. Again, we don't know, but Johnson is new to the job and maybe not so good at the details. This wouldn't happen to Turtle, that's for sure. In any event, if the item linked to is true, and we believe it is, the Republicans just lost most of their leverage because there are things their base wants in both groups now, while the things the base wants most are in the second group. So, holding either of them hostage would result in serious blowback. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates