Our nation is days away from the MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives causing a financial crisis that could crash our economy. It was only four months ago that this was the headline throughout the country, as the Chaos Caucus refused to raise the debt ceiling … but here we are, once again. This is not deja vu, it is reality.
There are 3.5 million federal workers in this country, and they are all days away from being furloughed. That’s 3.5 million people not getting paychecks, and not having money to spend on groceries, prescriptions, rent or mortgages. Think about the knock-on economic effects of that kind of money getting yanked away from local businesses … how many coffee shops and restaurants won’t serve their regular patrons, how many people will put off making purchases. It’s staggering.
Why is this happening? How did we get here? And how does it involve Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick?
Let’s get into it.
Every September of every year, the House and Senate together must pass a series of budget bills – usually 12 – to fund the government for the coming year, and then the President must sign them into law. Sometimes, particularly when one party has control of both our legislative and executive branches, this budget gets passed as one big bill, referred to as a budget omnibus bill. Other times, one issue or another causes a hold-up with one or more of those dozen bills, and they will pass them as several “minibus” bills, with all the noncontroversial budget pieces tucked together, and the hot topic budget getting a stand alone vote. And sometimes, more often these days than in the past, when Congress can’t come to terms on passing a new budget, they will pass short term “continuing resolutions,” often shortened to “CRs.” A CR is the way Congress funds the government at existing levels for a set period of time.
But none of those vital responsibilities are being fulfilled right now, because the MAGA Republicans in the House are not interested in governing, or doing the bare minimum required of our legislative branch.
This is not hyperbole. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tried to get the budget ball rolling by bringing just one of the 12 budget bills up for a vote. But even the procedural vote to bring the Defense Budget to the floor couldn’t get enough votes to move ahead, with the far-right voting against even debating the bill that provides the paychecks for all of our military personnel.
There are a few paths out of this debacle. All of them involve putting together legislation that could get enough votes to pass the House, and then get a majority in the Democrat-led Senate before going to Joe Biden for his signature. One of those paths involves Kevin McCarthy putting forth a budget package that can get enough Democratic support to offset the ‘burn-it-all-down’ wing of the Republican House caucus. Another path involves Democrats putting together their own budget (or a bipartisan budget), and that moving forward using a procedural method called a “discharge petition.” A third way to get out of this mess would be to grab onto the life raft that the Senate floated this week, when they passed their own bipartisan CR to keep the government funded. And this is where the First Congressional District of Pennsylvania’s own Republican Congressman Fitzpatrick comes into the situation.
Fitzpatrick and some of his oft-touted Problem Solvers Caucus pals have introduced their own version of a CR that they are currently promoting among their colleagues. It would do important things, like keeping the government open through January 2024, funding efforts to counter Putin’s war in Ukraine, and providing money to address several recent natural disasters. But, it does nothing to address the root of the shutdown problems in the House. And the clock keeps ticking down.
What Fitzpatrick cannot seem to recognize is that, despite his budget talks of the past few weeks, he and most of his Republican colleagues are directly responsible for the mess we are in. It is the unwillingness of these “normie Republicans” (as the folks over at the Bulwark call them) to come to terms with their own role that is condemning us all to this chaos and uncertainty. For this is the key root of the issue: Our nation would not be in this precarious position if not for Fitzpatrick’s unwavering support for House Speaker McCarthy, as he bartered away all but the barest hint of titular power in his quest to become Speaker of the House.
Back in January, as we all sat through the interminable days and fourteen House votes where Kevin McCarthy failed to become speaker, Fitzpatrick was one of the loudest and most stalwart of the “Only Kevin” GOP members. But in doing so, he handed over the reins of government to the MAGA Republicans, as Kevin McCarthy was only able to win that final 15th Speaker vote by making wild promises, many still unrevealed, to the far-right fringes of his party.
Some of the promises McCarthy made were policy-related. But the worst part of the deal (that we know of, as no one has managed to make public the actual text of the agreement) was that any individual Member of Congress can call for a vote to oust McCarthy as House Speaker. So to keep his job, McCarthy is now the wholly-owned pet of the most extremist faction of this Republican House. And bomb-throwers like Rep. Matt Gaetz have already taken to the floor to put McCarthy on notice.
That brings us to where we are today. The clock continues to tick its way down towards September 30, the last day for which the government has funding. The MAGA Republicans do not show any sign of blinking. Kevin McCarthy continues to flail as Speaker. And Brian Fitpatrick, despite putting on the face of working towards a solution, still fails to recognize that it was his unwavering support for the Speakership of Kevin McCarthy that put us here.
Brian Fitzpatrick isn’t a Problem Solver. Brian Fitzpatrick is the problem.