Democratic Caucus chair says shutdown is looming because ‘the far right is battling the extreme right’

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said Congress is on a "collision course" toward a government shutdown because of the power dynamics at play in the House of Representatives.

Aguilar attempted to characterize two factions of the House GOP conference, the "far right" and the "extreme right," and blamed the internal battle taking place between the two groups for what he sees as the House's inability to do their job.

"This is what House Republicans have done; they have created a scenario where the most extreme MAGA Republicans guide everything we do.

"Kevin McCarthy can't pass appropriations bills; he can't pass pieces of legislation without this core group of supporters, and so he has to do anything they want, including and up to impeachment," Aguilar said Sunday in an interview with MSNBC's Jen Psaki.

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Gripes from House conservatives about funding levels and policies forced Republican leaders to postpone votes on bills to fund agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration until September, yet another sign of a fractured caucus.

Aguilar said what House Democrats are most concerned about is a lack of time to avoid a shutdown. As he pointed out, only 12 legislative days remain until government funding runs out.

"That is where we are today," Aguilar said. "Kevin McCarthy can't control his own conference, and they continue to let the most extreme members guide everything they do."

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Aguilar articulated this point further, saying that the lack of control he sees from McCarthy is "what's so dangerous about impeachment discussions."

Referring to talks of impeaching Biden, Aguilar echoed what many in his party have said.

"They don't have any evidence against President Biden," Aguilar said. "This is a complete distraction."

McCarthy last week said he believes the House Oversight and Accountability Committee's investigations into the foreign business activities of Biden's will rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry. Democrats and some Republicans criticized McCarthy's comments, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who called impeachment talks a "shiny object" to distract from negotiations about spending.

Gaetz suggests eliminating marijuana testing of service members

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would eliminate marijuana testing of service members when they are enlisted and when they receive a commission.

"Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history. I do not believe that prior use of cannabis should exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country,” Gaetz said in a statement.

An increasing number of recruits have tested positive for cannabis, including in states where marijuana is legal. Almost 33 percent more recruits tested positive in 2022 compared to 2020, according to The New York Times.

As more states legalize marijuana for recreational use, the U.S. government has relaxed guidelines around drug testing, including in the military.

More than 3,400 new military recruits who failed a drug test on their first day were given a grace period to test again in the past five years, according to the Times.

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Medical marijuana is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C., and recreational marijuana is legal in 22 states and D.C., according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but the drug is still illegal under federal law.

Gaetz's amendment is one of a handful that have been proposed around cannabis and the military.

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Reps. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus proposed allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to give medical opinions on cannabis as a treatment for patients in states where the drug is legal.

In addition, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) proposed an amendment that would allow service members to consume legal CBD products.

The Pentagon said in a statement that "as a general practice, we do not comment on pending legislation."

Updated at 7:32 p.m.