Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Politics Makes Obnoxious Bedfellows?

It's somewhat hard to imagine a Speaker of the House less suited to Democratic tastes than Mike Johnson. He's an evangelical with some ideas that are fringy even for evangelicals. He's prone to dishonesty and theatrics. He's an insurrection supporter who not only voted against certifying results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, but who took the lead in writing the letter to the Supreme Court asking them to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He's tanked important, bipartisan legislation because Donald Trump ordered him to do so.

In short, the members of the blue team would really prefer not to touch the Speaker with a 10-foot pole. Unfortunately for them, they don't get to choose which Speaker they deal with. It's either him or nobody. And, as the calendar turns to March, there's a looming problem that must be tackled. It's the same looming problem that needed to be tackled back in January, and back in October of last year, namely the budget.

The dynamics here are pretty simple. There are some members of the House Republican Conference who want to shut the government down. There are others who are willing to support funding, but only if they get stuff that is unacceptable to Democrats (and to many Republicans in the Senate). The upshot is that many rank-and-file GOP members in the House are growing resigned to the notion that there will be no more kicking of the can down the road, and there will be no 11th-hour funding bills, and that the government will shut down for some period of time, starting in mid-March.

The members of the blue team could easily sit back and watch this happen, knowing it is likely that the Republicans will get the blame. That said, shutting down the government hurts people, and hurting people tends to make Democratic members queasy, much more so than it does most Republican members. It's also not a slam dunk that Republicans will get the blame, since Joe Biden is unpopular, and many people who are not paying attention might just decide that anything that goes wrong must be the fault of whoever is in the White House.

Meanwhile, if the Democrats play ball with Johnson, they can get bills that are more amenable to their goals, and that include some of their priorities. And so, some centrist Democrats are currently talking about the possibility of promising Johnson the votes to insulate him from a motion to vacate, in exchange for his bringing to the floor of the House funding bills that are acceptable to both Democrats and non-crazy Republicans.

This is just a trial balloon right now, and you can be very certain Democratic leadership is watching to see what the response is. Assuming there isn't too much blowback, then don't be terribly surprised if the Democrats hold their noses and form a temporary alliance with Johnson. Of course, he'll be holding his nose, too. Nobody said sausage-making was pretty. (Z)

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