Senate GOP Links Arms with House to Demand Dems Get Back to Business
“Even on a good day,” Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) said, “most Americans look at Washington, D.C., and they ask themselves, ‘How did these people make it through the birth canal?’ That’s on a good day.” But good days have been hard to come by lately, as the House devolves into chaos and the vacant speakership into an Emmy Award-winning soap. And while there’s not much Senate Republicans can do to rescue their House counterparts, that doesn’t mean they won’t try.
They may not take the extreme measures we’ve seen on the other side of the Capitol, but Senate conservatives have their own beefs with leadership. Now, with Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) replacement up in the air and business at a complete standstill, Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and 19 other Republicans have decided to send their own warning shot across the bow. If Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to use the House turmoil as an excuse to blow past the 45-day CR and insist on another omnibus, these 20 senators say they’ve got another thing coming.
In a letter to Schumer Wednesday, Scott and company threaten to pull the plug on any legislation that isn’t related to government funding for the foreseeable future. “Nothing can stand in the way of this work,” they urged. “For this reason, we the undersigned senators pledge to withhold our support for any vote to proceed to items unrelated to appropriations bills.”
The message is clear: conservatives won’t accept another multi-trillion-dollar omnibus stuffed down the chimney at Christmas. As warring members of the House GOP have argued, it’s time to get back to regular order for spending proposals. “We urge you to present a plan to the Republican Conference for how you intend to pass the remaining appropriations bills and conference them with the House in a manner that respects an open amendment process and which does not end in a December omnibus spending package.”
This crisis, after all, isn’t entirely of the House’s making. As Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) vented to NewsNation, Senate leadership has been MIA on the spending debate for months. “With the bills we’ve already passed and we’re sending over to the Senate, we’re talking about funding 70% of the government,” Rosendale said in an interview. “The Senate has not passed a single, solitary appropriations bill.” Then, to top it all off, Schumer sent everyone home for Columbus Day recess — infuriating Republicans like Senator John Cornyn (Texas).
“We had 45 days from Saturday to fund the government on an ongoing basis, and the majority leader has chosen to send the members of the Senate home for the next two weeks. It’s outrageous. It’s irresponsible. The American people deserve better,” Cornyn argued. “There is no more important work for the Senate during this time than debating, amending and passing appropriations bills …” the 20 senators (including Cornyn) insisted.
Meanwhile, in the daytime drama known as the U.S. House, a race for speaker is at least taking some shape. In addition to the calls to draft Donald Trump (House rules allow for a non-member to preside), both Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) have thrown their hats in the ring. “As you can imagine, this has never happened before,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) explained on “Washington Watch” of the motion to vacate. “So [there were a lot of] unanswered questions that couldn’t be answered in that room [Tuesday] night.”
For instance, Banks explained, “per the rules, when a speaker is vacated from the position, everything comes to a [halt]. … Nothing can work its way through the floor of the Congress.” He pointed to the continuing resolution passed on Saturday to keep the government open another month and a half. “But now the clock is ticking,” Banks warned. “We’re 41, 42 days away from when that [spending] package will expire — and then we have another shutdown fight. So time is of the essence here to get a Speaker of the House installed.”
And not just any speaker, Banks insisted, but “a strong conservative” who will “fight back against the radical Left and advance our conservative Republican agenda. [We need someone] who’s going to go into that room with President Biden and Chuck Schumer and be one tough negotiator.”
Of course, the problem with any scenario is that whoever the House ultimately chooses to lead the chamber will have the same threat hanging over their head as McCarthy — the motion to vacate the chair. Banks said he’s one of the many who’s “really concerned” about it. “If eight Republicans and every Democrat can bond together to oust the Republican Speaker of the House, then every Democrat and maybe a different eight Republicans can bond together to elect the next Speaker of the House. And this is what we have to avoid at all costs.” Imagine the catastrophe if a “very moderate, squishy, pro-abortion” Republican were installed as the Speaker of the House with the Democrats’ help. “That will set us backwards in the cause of saving the country.”
Think it couldn’t happen? Remember, Banks pointed out, one of the eight Republicans who ousted McCarthy, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), did it “because Speaker McCarthy didn’t put pro-abortion bills on the floor.” If there are enough like her working with Democrats, the result would be catastrophic.
In a lot of ways, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) observed, this whole motion to vacate “makes the speaker’s job impossible.” It’s a “hammerlock of dysfunction,” especially with the tightrope any Republican will have to walk to keep his fractured majority together.
For now, Banks insisted, “That’s why we have to have a Speaker of the House who is trusted, who all members can trust. … [W]e’ve got to put personalities aside and recognize that this country is in great peril, that what’s going on in America today because of the what the radical Left is trying to do to destroy this country, Republicans have to be unified to fight back against it.” Otherwise, “the Democrats are unified,” he pointed out, and they “clean our clock on some of these issues.”
“A lot of other members who are respected across the board in the conference … recognize that [Tuesday] was a bad look for our party, for our Congress, for our country,” he continued. “We’ve got to come together. … The voters gave us a majority to be a check on Joe Biden and the dangerous radical agenda of the Left. We’ve got to make sure that we live up to that, or we’re going to lose the majority in a quick minute.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.