Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Extremists in GOP own House speaker


Ashutdown of the federal government, even if only temporary, would needlessly disrupt the lives of public employees and citizens who depend on government services. But, despite a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill, such a calamity remains all too possible next month.

The explanatio­n is tiresomely familiar: the obstructio­nism of a small band of hard-line House Republican­s. On Thursday, these dissenters embarrasse­d Speaker Kevin McCarthy by blocking considerat­ion of a Pentagon funding bill, the second such vote in a week. Opposition from extreme right-wing members is also complicati­ng McCarthy’s attempt to advance a continuing resolution, a stopgap measure to keep the government operating after Sept. 30.

Ideally McCarthy would be able to attract Democratic votes to protect the national interest, as he did in May when the House approved legislatio­n to suspend the debt ceiling and forestall a default. That vote was a model of the sort of bipartisan compromise that should be the norm in a divided Congress.

But proposals by House Republican­s for a continuing resolution — needed because of a lack of progress on specific appropriat­ions bills — offer Democrats little incentive to come to McCarthy’s rescue.

The latest proposal, discussed at a House Republican conference meeting on Wednesday, reportedly is for a 31-day stopgap funding bill that would impose limits on spending more restrictiv­e than what Democrats want and include measures to curb immigratio­n. McCarthy has sought to link the stopgap measure to some of the provisions of a bill passed by the House, which includes a resumption of constructi­on of a border wall and restrictio­ns on asylum.

Even if Democrats were willing to support a continuing resolution, a decision by McCarthy to rely on Democratic votes probably would increase the possibilit­y of an attempt by extreme Republican­s to unseat him from the leadership role he narrowly achieved on the 15th ballot.

An additional complicati­on is the decision by former President Donald Trump, who is a favorite of many House Republican­s, to inject himself into the shutdown debate. On Wednesday, Trump posted this call to arms on Truth Social: “A very important deadline is approachin­g at the end of the month. Republican­s in Congress can and must defund all aspects of Crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized Government that refuses to close the Border and treats half the Country as Enemies of the State. This is also the last chance to defund these political prosecutio­ns against me and other Patriots.”

(In fact, it’s unlikely that a shutdown would interfere with the federal prosecutio­ns of Trump. Just add that to the ever-growing pile of the former president’s lies and distortion­s.)

McCarthy might still cobble together enough votes to win the support of a majority of Republican­s for a continuing resolution, which would then have to be reconciled with or replaced by what is likely to be a less extreme Senate version.

Yet if dissenters continue to stymie his efforts, the speaker should stop accommodat­ing them and reach out to Democrats as he did when he secured an agreement with the White House on suspending the debt ceiling. By now McCarthy should have realized that placating the extremists in his ranks — including by announcing a meritless impeachmen­t inquiry into Biden — only emboldens them.

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