Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Less Than a Week Until the Coach Turns into a Pumpkin

No, not that coach. He's more of a pea-brain than a pumpkin, and he's not a coach anymore, anyhow, he's a senator. Funding for much of the government runs out Saturday night at the witching hour of midnight, when coaches turn into pumpkins and a lot of stuff freezes. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) got his dream job (on the 15th round of voting), but the deals he made to get it make it impossible to do the job. His strategy is to kick the can down the road—and even that is not working. Usually Congress is pretty good at kicking the can down the road and when a leader can't even pull that off, it shows what kind of a leader he is.

This week he will probably make a few more attempts at playing kick the can (i.e., just delaying the shutdown for a couple of months), but they will probably fail. If McCarthy can't even get all his members to agree to delaying a government shutdown, for which the Republicans are certain to get the blame, how will he ever put together a budget even if he gets another month or two to try?

Meanwhile, the 18 Biden-district Republicans do not want a shutdown and are working with the Democrats to avert it. Some of them are very angry. Rep. John Duarte (R-CA) said: "We're risking the financial sustainability of the United States, because a few guys want to raise money on their social media feeds." These Republicans and some Democrats are working on a discharge petition, which would force a bill to fund the government at current levels for a couple of months onto the floor for a vote. It would probably pass, largely with Democratic votes.

But if McCarthy can't even delay a shutdown, how can he prevent one? How can he produce a budget that 218 members of the House would support? There is a way, but it would come at a steep price. He could work with the Democrats and come up with a bill acceptable to Senate Democrats. This would make the Freedom Caucusers go ballistic and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) would introduce a motion to vacate the chair (i.e., fire McCarthy from his dream job less than a year after he got it). If all the Democrats and at least five Republicans voted for the motion to vacate the chair, it would succeed and we'd be back to Jan. 3, 2023.

Sooner or later, McCarthy is going to come to the realization that he doesn't have the votes to go it alone. Then he has to come to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) with his tail between his legs. Jeffries and the rest of his team all realize that while normally the House minority has no power at all, in this peculiar situation it does. One House Democrat who preferred to remain anonymous told Politico: "Here you have a man fighting for his political life, and the only lifeline would be from Democrats. Why not extract as much as you freakin' can?" Internal discussions about what that might be are already going on within the Democratic caucus. In an interview with Ryan Lizza, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA) casually mentioned that one of the (many) conditions would be having the House stop the process of impeaching Joe Biden. Doing that would make the Freedom Caucusers go absolutely bats**t crazy. And that probably doesn't even convey how angry they would be. Truth be told, they would surely take it to the next level and go Boe**rt crazy. (Would Matt and Marjorie put on a show—no, no, not that kind of show?) The only way for McCarthy to survive that would be to dump the representative from Georgia as de facto co-speaker and give that job to Jeffries or Clark. But governing together with the Democrats would be anathema to a substantial part of his caucus. What's a guy to do?

For the Democrats, this is easy. Just do nothing right now. In her interview, Clark said that McCarthy hasn't called her, but her phone is on. Sooner or later he is going to have to call Jeffries or Clark. Clark might be the easier of the two since she comes across as a very gentle, sweet person. But it is really a case of a mailed fist in a velvet glove, not unlike Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Until the call comes in, the Democrats are going to just sit tight and wait. (V)

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