As Congress returns from its summer break on Tuesday, lawmakers will face their annual crisis of funding the government through early December. It promises to be an intense three-week session to avert a government shutdown, as the Sept 30 deadline approaches.
The legislative focus will not be on a budget. A proper budget hasn’t been passed in over 20 years. Rather, Congress will push for yet another continuing resolution (CR), which is a short-term funding bill.
Fox News host Brett Baier discussed the coming showdown on “Special Report” last week.
(Video: Fox News)
Annual budget showdowns are especially intense in election years. It is a time of bullying and acquiescing that almost always seems to advance some significant element of the Democrat agenda. Indeed, there are no identifiably conservative initiatives under consideration in the coming debate, no talk about bits of compromise or balance.
The only possible concession on the docket emerges from the infamous Schumer-Manchin handshake that resulted in the Aug 12 passage of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act. Schumer is posturing, for the moment, in such a way as to honor that agreement, which would streamline the permitting process for oil and gas drilling, a policy favored by Manchin’s West Virginia constituency.
But even that seems unlikely to materialize. Democrats don’t tend to honor agreements with conservative or moderate lawmakers when the time comes to do so, even with a 50-50 Senate. Members of the Democrat caucus are now saying that the “side deal” was only between Schumer and Manchin and that they are not bound to it. Manchin could be duped again. Nearly a third of House Democrats indicated they would not support a bill that includes permitting.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) asserts that Manchin “went back on his word to get [Build Back Better] done, and we owe him nothing now.”
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) leads the opposition to the permitting initiative.
“In the face of the existential threats like climate change and MAGA extremism, House and Senate leadership has a greater responsibility than ever to avoid risking a government shutdown by jamming divisive policy riders into a must-pass continuing resolution,” said Grijalva.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is requesting that Congress include $22 billion for coronavirus money. Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, asserted that the money is needed for sending free at-home Covid tests to citizens.
As for GOP posturing, some on the right are planning to oppose a CR that includes additional Covid funding.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, says that the Biden administration hasn’t been transparent thus far with how Covid funds have been spent.
“Rather than asking Congress for even more money now,” argued Cole, “it is high time for the administration to be fully transparent about funds spent and balances remaining.”
Other Republicans have weighed in with similar invectives.
“We’ve spent trillions already, before we spend more we need a full accounting of how that money was spent and how much is left.” said Rep. Lloyd Smucker (D-PA), a senior Republican on the House Budget Committee. More broadly, he observed that “If there is any desire for fiscal responsibility in this administration, it is not evident.”
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-SD) also spoke up. “We just don’t think that’s necessary,” he said. “There’s still plenty of money still swirling around from previous COVID bills.”
“The pandemic is over. Democrats’ wasteful spending and poor planning has our country on the cusp of a government shutdown, during a recession,” said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz. “The notion that they would consider adding additional ‘COVID relief’ funding to a continuing resolution is beyond irresponsible.”
In the face of this opposition, Schumer condescended.
“We need to be prepared,” he said. “We’ve always been prepared as a country and it’s disgraceful that Republicans are playing political games with this when the health dimension is at stake.”
Republican voters will no doubt watch the government funding debate nervously, worrying that their side will again cave to pressure to avoid a shutdown by giving the Democrats everything they want.
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