Republicans ‘in the middle of a civil war’ as shutdown looms

Who could have predicted it? The trial balloon a handful of House Freedom Caucus members floated with a few “establishment” Main Street Caucus members was shot down Sunday before it even started to rise.

The proposal consisted of a one-month continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through Oct. 31 but slash spending on nearly everything but defense, veterans programs, and disaster relief by more than 8% for the next month. The proposal also featured elements of a racist border funding/policy bill that passed the House in May. Every element of this—the cuts, the racist border bill, and the short time frame—would no doubt have been rejected by the Senate, even if it could pass the House.

However, it won’t pass the House because enough of the hardest hardliners have said no, and there’s no way Democrats would vote for it.

Florida man Rep. Matt Gaetz immediately rejected it. “I will not support this 167 page surrender to Joe Biden,” he said. Freedom Caucus Reps. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Eli Crane of Arizona, and others piled on. That included Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s good pal Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. That’s more than enough to bring the bill down.

According to The Washington Post, House leadership nevertheless has a “goal of uniting all flanks of the conference to support passing the deal.” McCarthy was a bit befuddled by it all Monday morning. "If you're not willing to pass appropriations bills and you're not willing to pass a continuing resolution to allow you to pass the rest of the appropriations bills and you don't want an omnibus, I don't quite know what you want,” he told reporters, summing up all the things the extremists have said they won’t do.

He reportedly did give a hint about how he might try to force his conference together on this: terrorists on the border! He has asked for a classified briefing on the issue. While the Department of Homeland Security has reported that the number of people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list that border agents encountered has increased in the past several months, the key part of that is that border agents stopped them from crossing.

McCarthy intended to bring this proposal to the floor in tandem with the defense appropriations bill the extremists derailed last week. “I gave them an opportunity this weekend to try to work through this, and we’ll bring it to the floor win or lose,” McCarthy said on Fox News’ Sunday morning.

That’s likely to be a “lose” if he tries to ram the bills through together. Democrats will almost surely not help. Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl that the House Republicans are "in the middle of a civil war.”

"It's unfortunate,” he added. “But as House Democrats, we're going to continue to try to find common ground with the other side of the aisle. … Hopefully the House Republicans will come along so that we can work to make sure we are funding the government."

The House Republican conference, and thus the whole House, remains in chaos, with just 12 days left for McCarthy to figure out how not to shut the government down.

Sign and send the petition: Pass a clean funding bill. No GOP hostage taking.


House hardliners brag about 'chaos' as government shutdown looms

House Freedom Caucus plans to shut down the government, blame it on the Senate

Sinema ally calls House's racist immigration bill 'a good first step'

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

Divorce is hard, new places are too: Read Boebert’s BS apology for ‘Beetlejuice’ behavior

Lauren Boebert wants you to know she’s going through some things, okay?

The Colorado representative, who just barely won reelection in 2022 over Democrat Adam Frisch, saw some severe damage done this week to her hard-won reputation as one of Congress’ most obnoxious members. After news emerged that she and her companion were removed from a Denver theatrical production of “Beetlejuice” for—well, lots of reasons—the proud Freedom Caucus member was quick to make a mockery of her bad behavior—or rather the theater’s response to it.

But now Boebert’s apologizing … for behavior she initially denied.

The initial story is a familiar one to anyone who’s seen a performance of anything with a big group. From the redacted Buell Theatre incident report, first obtained Monday by The Colorado Sun:

Lower director (NAME REDACTED), received three different complaints about the patrons sitting in Orch C Row E seats 1 and 2 that they were vaping, singing, causing a disturbance. (NAME REDACTED) radioed for support and supervisor Jorge, Roxanne, and I respond to the location.

The patrons were not at their seats when we arrived, and we waited until they returned. Once the patrons returned, I informed them that our usher team had noticed vaping and also that they were causing a disturbance for the area with noise, singing, using their cell phone, and that they need to be respectful to their neighbors.

Since, there was already multiple complaints, I informed the patrons that if there was another issue that they would be asked to leave. The patrons were argumentative.

Predictably, “there was another issue,” and the patrons were asked to leave.

They told me they would not leave. I told them that they need to leave the theatre and if they do not, they will be trespassing. The patrons said they would not leave. I told them I would going to get Denver Police. They said go get them.

I walk out into the vestibule and radioed for support.


The patron[s] left the theatre on their own. (NAME REDACTED) said he told them they could get banned and they exited.

I speak to the patrons in the vestibule, again telling them they have to leave the property and they argue. They say stuff like “do you know who I am” “I am on the board” “I will be contacting the mayor.”

On Monday, Team Boebert declined to comment to The Sun, but by late Tuesday, Boebert, 36, offered a signature snarky tweet about the incident.

It's true, I did thoroughly enjoy the AMAZING Beetlejuice at the Buell Theatre and I plead guilty to laughing and singing too loud! 🤭 Everyone should go see it if you get the chance this week and please let me know how it ends! 😅

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) September 12, 2023

On Wednesday, the local NBC affiliate got surveillance footage of the incident, shattering Boebert’s cheeky downplay, and painting an even worse picture of the her antics than the Buell incident report did. With all attention focused on Boebert’s tasteless disruption—rather than, say, making fun of (but still amplifying) what must’ve been a hard-won POLITICO puff piece published that very morning—Team Boebert went on the offensive, accusing the Buell Theatre workers and attendees of lying.

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The Washington Post:

Drew Sexton, Boebert’s campaign manager, confirmed that the congresswoman was escorted out of the performance, but he disputed the alleged behavior cited by the venue.

“I can confirm the stunning and salacious rumors: in her personal time, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert is indeed a supporter of the performing arts (gasp!) and, to the dismay of a select few, enthusiastically enjoyed a weekend performance of Beetlejuice,” he said in a statement.

Sexton denied that Boebert was vaping during “Beetlejuice,” saying that heavy fog machines and electronic cigarettes were used during the show, so there might have been “a misunderstanding from someone sitting near her.”

Sure, Jan. Even Boebert made light of the situation.

On Thursday? A pregnant woman sitting behind Boebert and her beau spoke to The Denver Post, telling her side of the “surreal” story. 

The woman says Boebert took multiple long videos during the first half of the performance. When she asked Boebert to stop vaping, the congresswoman simply said “no,” the woman said. Boebert was also kissing the man she was with, and singing along loudly with her hands in the air, the woman said.

“At intermission, I asked, ‘Are there any other seats available? Can we sit somewhere else?’” the woman said. “The usher said, ‘You’re not the first complaint we had.’ ”

When the woman returned with her husband to their seats, she said Boebert called her a “sad and miserable person.”

“The guy she was with offered to buy me and my husband cocktails. I’m pregnant!” she said.

Which brings us to Friday, when more footage shot all sorts of holes in Boebert’s denials of vaping. 

What’s a panicked, freshly single new grandma who was just 546 votes away from losing the closest House race of 2022 to do? Faux-pologize, of course, and invoke her ongoing divorce.

The past few days have been difficult and humbling, and I’m truly sorry for the unwanted attention my Sunday evening in Denver has brought to the community. While none of my actions or words as a private citizen that night were intended to be malicious or meant to cause harm, the reality is they did and I regret that.

There’s no perfect blueprint for going through a public and difficult divorce, which over the past few months has made for a challenging personal time for me and my entire family. I’ve tried to handle it with strength and grace as best I can, but I simply fell short of my values on Sunday. That’s unacceptable and I’m sorry.

Whether it was the excitement of seeing a much-anticipated production or the natural anxiety of being in a new environment, I genuinely did not recall vaping that evening when I discussed the night’s events with my campaign team while confirming my enthusiasm for the musical. Regardless of my belief, it’s clear now that was not accurate. It was not my or my campaign’s intention to mislead, but we do understand the nature of how this looks. We know we will have to work to earn your trust back and it may not happen overnight, but we will do it.

I’m deeply thankful to those in the 3rd District who have defended me and reached out this week and offered grace and support when I needed it most. I’ve learned some humbling lessons these last few days but I vow moving forward, I will make you proud.

Sure, Lauren. We all have those stories where “new environment” anxiety made us forget what we did in said environment! And who hasn’t insulted a nearby pregnant woman when anticipation is on the line? Divorce is hard, especially when one is as committed to destroying democracy as Boebert and her Freedom Caucus pals are.

House Freedom Caucus plans to shut down the government, blame it on the Senate

In 15 days, funding for all federal government operations will expire, barring a miracle (or House Speaker Kevin McCarthy having a personality transplant that turns him into a competent leader, which puts us back in miracle territory). A guy who lets people like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz pressure him into trying to impeach President Joe Biden based on the hallucinations of Rudy Giuliani isn’t likely to transform into a competent strategist.

The House returned from its six-week August recess Tuesday afternoon ready to do one of the easiest things Congress ever has to accomplish: spending a lot of money on the Pentagon. They failed—massively—as the extremist zealots refused to let the bill come to the floor. They didn’t do it because they’re opposed to the bill. They did it because they can, as a power flex.

No one in the House seems capable of coming up with a plan to stop them. “It’s stupid,” Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson complained to Politico. “We’ve been seeing this coming for the last three or four months. I just didn’t think we were dumb enough to get there,” he said. Simpson should know better, coming from Idaho of all places, the sinkhole of GOP stupidity.

Another senior GOP member told Semafor that what happened with the “Five Families” in the “Godfather” movies is coming. “The whole family kills each other,” they said. “I think we’re close to that right now. We are in maybe the Godfather II stage.” The member is probably referring to the fact that GOP leadership in the House decided to emulate “The Godfather” by calling the various factions in the House the “Five Families.” For real. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Two of those five are working on a supposed solution. A few members of both the Main Street Caucus, made up of supposed moderates, and the Freedom Caucus started meeting Wednesday to hatch some sort of stopgap funding plan, including spending cuts and border security funding.

Since Freedom Caucus guy Chip Roy of Texas is one of the negotiators, don’t expect it to work. What he’s in it for is a shutdown that they can blame on the Senate. He admitted it.

SHUTDOWN: @chiproytx says at Family Research Council he views a shutdown as inevitable because of Senate intransigence. He says GOP uniting around push for border policy changes as reason for fight

— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) September 15, 2023

The Senate will not accept a stopgap bill or a continuing resolution that slashes funding. For one thing, it’s called a continuing resolution because what it does is continue current funding. Roy knows that. His whole group knows that. A shutdown is exactly what the Freedom Caucus wants, for whatever reason.

“We’re going to have a shutdown, it’s just a matter of how long,” GOP @RepRalphNorman says. “We believe in what we are doing. The jury will be the country. And the jury is fed up with reckless spending.”

— Ben Siegel (@bensiegel) September 14, 2023

The “jury” does not want that. Seventy-one percent of Republicans “believe a government shutdown this fall would hurt the economy,” according to the latest polling from Navigator Research. Other Republicans understand that. “Have we ever not got blamed for a shutdown? ... I’m worried about the basic functions of government,” said Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong of South Dakota.

Making matters even worse for McCarthy, he lost another vote Friday when Rep. Chris Stewart’s planned resignation was supposed to take effect. That leaves just a four-vote margin for McCarthy.

The glaring solution—and the inevitable one—is reaching out and compromising for Democratic votes. It’s the only way this gets solved. But at this point, it’s going to take Republicans reaping the disaster of a shutdown to force them to do it.

Sign the petition: Denounce MAGA GOP's baseless impeachment inquiry against Biden


Ron Johnson derails months of bipartisan Senate work on spending bills

House hardliners brag about 'chaos' as government shutdown looms

What did McCarthy gain by caving on impeachment? Nothing

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

McCarthy talks tough, rebels yawn

In a closed-door meeting Thursday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched an F-bomb-filled tirade, daring hardliners to just try to oust him. “If you think you scare me because you want to file a motion to vacate, move the f—ing motion,” McCarthy said, according to the three Republicans who immediately ran and told Politico. Odds the three are McCarthy allies? Very high. The motion in question is what Rep. Matt Gaetz is threatening, calling for a vote in the House to remove McCarthy from the seat.

For his part, Gaetz was unimpressed. “Sounds like @SpeakerMcCarthy is having a total normal one - not rattled at all,” he tweeted. “Truth is Kevin controls his own fate. … Pull yourself together, Kevin!”

McCarthy also tried to convince the extremists that they have to relent and agree to a stopgap funding bill before the end of the month, averting a government shutdown. That didn’t work so well, either. Freedom Caucus Rep. Chip Roy of Texas went on Glenn Beck’s show and was mad that McCarthy is trying to work the conference to avoid a shutdown. “My point is force an actual trajectory change and a shift or get out of the damn game,” he said.

Not content just to swear at fellow Republicans, McCarthy also threatened to take away their weekends, Politico reports. He reiterated what he said in the meeting afterward. "When we come back (Monday), we're not going [to] leave,” he told reporters. “We're going to get this done. Nobody wins in a government shutdown. Nobody wins in a government shutdown."

That message might have worked better if he didn’t have a history of bailing on hard votes. This week, which consisted of barely three days, was the first one back in session for the House since July 27, when they left town early after failing to pass the agriculture appropriations bill.

The House was supposed to have passed the annual defense appropriations bill this week, but the Freedom Caucus and others shut that down, too. They refused to vote for the procedural motion bringing the bill to the floor, effectively blocking anything of import from being done in the House and complicating McCarthy’s plans to avert a shutdown in 16 days and a few hours.

What’s his plan now? Who knows. Cue the sad trombone:

McCarthy with the understatement of the month as Congress speeds toward a federal shutdown asked if he has a plan for next week McCarthy, almost whispering, replied: “I had a plan for this week. It didn’t turn out exactly as I planned”

— Meredith Lee Hill (@meredithllee) September 14, 2023

Sign the petition: No to shutdowns, no to Biden impeachment, no to Republicans.


House hardliners brag about 'chaos' as government shutdown looms

Gaetz attacks McCarthy in wild House speech

House bails early for August, and the old guard and newbie Republicans are cranky about it

House hardliners brag about ‘chaos’ as government shutdown looms

On its first full day of work following the August recess, the House was supposed to start the floor process to bring up the defense appropriations bill Wednesday. The people in charge of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, however, had other plans. That plan consists of: one, shutting the House down while they come up with more unreasonable demands for slashing government funding and, two, running the clock down toward Oct. 1, when they can shut the whole government down.

One of the hardliners in the House, Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, told Politico that running amok is their master plan. “We have an evolving strategy going right now. This whole place is about chaos, right?” Got that? Chaos is strategy.

McCarthy did not have enough votes to pass the first procedural vote on the military spending bill, and wasn’t going to force a repeat of his resounding defeat in June, when 11 hardliners unexpectedly voted against the motion to proceed on a bill and tied the House up for days, not allowing any legislation to advance to the floor. The ploy then was to force McCarthy to renege on the deal he made with President Joe Biden to avert a debt default, and slash the agreed-upon spending levels by billions. It worked.

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At least McCarthy learned from that experience and counted the votes before he put the defense appropriations bill on the floor, saving himself a modicum of embarrassment. Otherwise, it’s a repeat of the June fiasco, with the added excitement of a pending government shutdown in just 10 legislative days.

The obstructionists aren’t opposing this appropriations bill, just like they weren’t opposed to the legislation back in June—that was a ridiculous bit of political posturing about people’s freedom to have gas stoves. This bill, which Republicans are programmed to love because it contains money for the Pentagon, is chock-full of their culture-war bullshit. They’re blocking it because it’s the best hostage they can take now.

“Nobody’s objecting to what’s in the bill,” said House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole. “Everybody’s trying to leverage the bill for something now.” What they want isn’t exactly clear beyond, as Politico writes, “a litany of demands from [the] right flank on how to handle federal spending talks with the Senate to avert a funding lapse.”

One thing the House hardliners don’t want is a stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown. That would mean continuing to spend at current levels, which they say is too much. They want to go back to the previous funding year, 2022, but that simply can’t be done in a continuing resolution. That’s not how this works. Which means they want to shut the government down.

There are any number of other demands, none of which are impeachment. “[McCarthy] starting an impeachment inquiry gives him no—zero—cushion, relief, brace, as it applies to spending,” Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, one of the revolters, told Politico. So good job on that one, Mr. Speaker.

This is another big blow to McCarthy. If he can’t get the defense bill passed—of all goddamned things—you know how hopeless it all is. There seems to be no possible way the speaker can regain control of the House at this point, and that makes a government shutdown almost inevitable.


McCarthy caves to rebels for temporary truce

GOP rebels shut the House down

Freedom Caucus bites back

What did McCarthy gain by caving on impeachment? Nothing

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just set himself up for a game of government shutdown Whac-A-Mole. He gave in to the loudest voices—well, two voices mostly: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s and Matt Gaetz’s—and agreed to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, all based on nonsense and lies. Just about the only thing McCarthy achieved by agreeing to this was demonstrating yet again that he’ll fold to the extremists every time.

He also opened the floodgates for every other faction in the Republican conference to make demands.

Gaetz did not back down once McCarthy agreed to impeachment. On the contrary: He attacked McCarthy, promising that he’d move to oust the speaker if McCarthy didn’t start fulfilling a bunch of secret promises he allegedly made back in January, during his ego-bruising fight to win the speaker’s gavel.

Then there is the Freedom Caucus. On the heels of McCarthy’s announcement, they held a press conference to reiterate that no way, no how are they going to allow the government to be funded.

McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry hasn’t swayed the Freedom Caucus towards funding the government

— Acyn (@Acyn) September 12, 2023

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“Enough!” shouted a very worked up Rep. Chip Roy. “I will not continue to fund a government at war with the American people. We are here to change it. It is time to end it and I’m proud to stand with these patriots to do that.” What is the government supposedly warring with the people about? Who knows what Roy is ranting about this time. Maybe immigration, or the COVID vaccine, or maybe aid to Ukraine. He’s just mad.

How is McCarthy going to deal with that? With a margin of just five Republican votes to spare, he clearly isn’t going to be able to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running. He’s going to need Democratic votes. Now that he’s decided to ratchet up the partisanship with a bogus impeachment inquiry, House Democrats sure aren’t going to want to help him out. He isolated himself further from Biden and Senate Democrats, the very people who can bail him out with an agreement.

There are just 11 legislative days before funding runs out, and as of now, McCarthy is on his own. On the Senate side, Republicans are aligning with the Democrats to avert a shutdown. The majority of House Republicans probably don’t want a shutdown, but right now they’re cowering and staying out of it.

While McCarthy is bumbling his way toward this disaster, federal government officials are being forced to spend a lot of time—and time is money!—going through the process of figuring out how to shut agencies down, who to furlough, and how to keep necessary stuff running. That means hundreds of thousands of federal workers are once again on tenterhooks, not knowing if they’ll be getting a paycheck next month.

The weakest speaker in recent memory is on a path to prove he’s also the most destructive one, just by virtue of his own incompetence.


McCarthy announces formal impeachment inquiry, bypassing House vote

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McCarthy thinks impeachment inquiry rules should apply to everyone but him

Why does it seem like Republicans have such a hard time recruiting Senate candidates who actually live in the states they want to run in? We're discussing this strange but persistent phenomenon on this week's edition of "The Downballot." The latest example is former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who's been spending his time in Florida since leaving the House in 2015, but he's not the only one. Republican Senate hopefuls in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Wisconsin all have questionable ties to their home states—a problem that Democrats have gleefully exploited in recent years. (Remember Dr. Oz? Of course you do.)

Freedom Caucus stalwart opposes impeachment, becomes GOP target

Rep. Ken Buck is a prototypical Freedom Caucus member. The Colorado Republican relishes being a maverick, voting his conscience, and fighting with leadership—or with his extremist colleagues—when he feels like it. Now Buck finds himself enmeshed in that “perfect storm” he warned Speaker Kevin McCarthy was coming, and the House Republican majority is turned inside out. Buck is now on the outside of a ridiculous scheme, which has been put into motion by McCarthy, to move forward on impeaching President Joe Biden.

The problem is that Buck remains reality-based. He used to be a federal prosecutor, so he knows some stuff—like the fact that in order to impeach a president, you have to have evidence that they’ve done something impeachable. “The time for impeachment is the time when there’s evidence linking President Biden — if there’s evidence linking President Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor. That doesn’t exist right now,” Buck said in an interview on MSNBC last weekend.

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He called Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s threat to shut the government down if McCarthy didn’t agree to start an impeachment inquiry “absurd.” Now Greene is on the warpath. “This is the same guy that wrote a book called ‘Drain the Swamp’, who is now arguing against an impeachment inquiry,” Greene said. “I really don’t see how we can have a member on Judiciary that is flat out refusing to impeach. … It seems like, can he even be trusted to do his job at this point?”

It’s possible that Buck was involved in ousting Greene from the Freedom Caucus (he had a lot to say about it) a few months ago, or that Greene thinks he was, so she might be going after him for that. One of the reasons Greene was booted was because she was too cozy with leadership—specifically with McCarthy. Whatever the case, there is now a contingent in the House GOP that is aligning themselves with Greene—and apparently leadership—against Buck.

A number of sources told CNN that “there is growing frustration” in the conference, “including among the leadership ranks,” over a number of Buck’s positions, probably stemming back to his vote to certify the 2020 election and his defense of former Rep. Liz Cheney when Republican leadership was kicking her out. He’s also voted against some bills McCarthy considers key to demonstrating his leadership, like the debt ceiling deal and the defense authorization act. These are very Freedom Caucus things to do; Buck has never voted for a debt ceiling authorization because he hates the debt. About half of his fellow caucus members also voted against it.

It’s a hell of a thing. One of the most Freedom Caucus-ish members of the Freedom Caucus is now sounding like a reasonable, sensible, establishment kind of Republican, and leadership is running with the hare-brained impeachment idea. There’s clearly no room for being reality-based in the House with Kevin McCarthy (at least nominally) in charge.

That’s a Republican Party in disarray.


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‘MAGA circus’ steamrolls over McCarthy, again

Greene owns McCarthy, and he doesn’t even realize it

Why does it seem like Republicans have such a hard time recruiting Senate candidates who actually live in the states they want to run in? We're discussing this strange but persistent phenomenon on this week's edition of "The Downballot." The latest example is former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who's been spending his time in Florida since leaving the House in 2015, but he's not the only one. Republican Senate hopefuls in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Wisconsin all have questionable ties to their home states—a problem that Democrats have gleefully exploited in recent years. (Remember Dr. Oz? Of course you do.)

McCarthy facing ‘perfect storm,’ warns Freedom Caucus member

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing a “perfect storm” of complications when the House returns to work Tuesday, Rep. Ken Buck said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki” on Sunday. The Colorado Republican should know—he’s a member of the extremist Freedom Caucus, the group that is gleefully making McCarthy’s life miserable.

McCarthy has promised a lot of different things to a lot of different people, Buck said, including suggesting that he’s open to the idea of impeaching President Joe Biden. Buck is not an impeachment believer and has taken on radical GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying that "the idea that that she is now the expert on impeachment or that she is someone who should set the timing on impeachment is absurd." He added that it should only happen if there is “evidence linking President Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor. That doesn’t exist right now.”

As for the “perfect storm” brewing in the next three weeks, Buck lists a continuing resolution that has to be passed to keep the government operating, the massive funding cuts the Freedom Caucus is demanding before they’ll allow that continuing resolution, and the impeachment. “So you take those things put together, and Kevin McCarthy, the speaker, has made promises on each of those issues to different groups. And now it is all coming due at the same time.”

Time for the voice of experience to weigh in—namely, former Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader during the 2013 shutdown. You might remember Cantor as one of the “Young Guns” trio, who were, according to the press copy for their book, “changing the face of the Republican Party and giving us a new road map back to the American dream.” The other “guns”? McCarthy and former House Speaker Paul Ryan. In retrospect, how hilarious is this video?

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That’s two down so far: Cantor was soundly and shockingly defeated in his primary in 2014, and Rep. Paul Ryan retired in 2018, after a thankless stint as speaker. He took over from former Speaker John Boehner, who resigned in 2015 after the Freedom Caucus seemingly wore him down.

You might think, given that experience, that Cantor would tell the last Young Gun standing to finally cut off the Freedom Caucus and work with the majority of Republicans—along with Democrats—to avoid a shutdown. In a new interview with Politico, he doesn’t do quite that. He told them that he learned the lesson from 2013 that “individuals would be willing to embark upon a plan that was so poorly conceived that there was no exit strategy at all — and that that would be appealing.” He added, “A lot of people were just fine with being able to vent their anger and frustration, go into the shutdown and leave it to leaders to figure out how to get out of it. I think that politically, that’s not a winner — but perhaps that will be what happens again.”

So Cantor’s advice to McCarthy is basically to find an “exit strategy.” That’ll work!

Buck is a little more realistic about it. McCarthy likely will have to pass the continuing resolution with Democratic votes, which will enrage the Freedom Caucus and almost certainly result in their trying to oust McCarthy with a motion to vacate the chair. That’s not something that Buck says McCarthy should be too worried about, though. “I think there will be challenges, but I don’t see anybody stepping up and say, I’ll take Kevin’s job,” he said. “So I think that’s really what saves Kevin is the lack of enthusiasm from anybody else to do the job.”

Gosh, what a ringing endorsement for keeping the House in Republican hands.


House Republican extremists look like they want a government shutdown

Can Senate Republicans stop House extremists from helping Putin?

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Why does it seem like Republicans have such a hard time recruiting Senate candidates who actually live in the states they want to run in? We're discussing this strange but persistent phenomenon on this week's edition of "The Downballot." The latest example is former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who's been spending his time in Florida since leaving the House in 2015, but he's not the only one. Republican Senate hopefuls in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Wisconsin all have questionable ties to their home states—a problem that Democrats have gleefully exploited in recent years. (Remember Dr. Oz? Of course you do.)

House Republican extremists look like they want a government shutdown

We are in September now, which means the government-shutdown stopwatch is ticking. This congressional calendar is even more fraught than usual because there’s just so much that Congress needs to do—and yet, House Republican extremists remain intent on creating chaos. Making matters worse, the House remains on vacation this week, and has scheduled only 12 legislative days before the fiscal year ends and government funding expires on Oct. 1.

Government funding isn’t the only thing that’s supposed to be accomplished in the next three weeks. The end of September is also the deadline for the high-stakes farm bill and a reauthorization bill—the legislation that governs how funds are supposed to be spent by agencies—for the Federal Aviation Administration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is running out of money and needs a cash infusion to keep responding to the recent disasters in Hawaii and Florida, much less what the remainder of hurricane and wildfire season may bring.

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A few weeks ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy floated a possible deal with Democrats to pass a short-term funding bill to keep the government running while Congress continues to work on the regular appropriations bills. At least one hard-line Republican, Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, has declared she won’t vote for it unless the House first votes to begin impeaching President Joe Biden.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas is joining in, not necessarily on impeaching Biden as a condition of funding the government, but more so in opposition to having a functioning government. On Monday, Texas Sen. John Cornyn tweeted about the impending shutdown, obliquely chastising the House Republicans for being “universes” apart from Senate Republicans on funding government. Roy quickly responded by saying that Republicans shouldn’t fund “the things they campaign against - and then just shrug… border… DOJ weaponization… DOD wokeness… IRS abuse… COVID tyranny.”

That’s left McCarthy weakly arguing that if they shut down the government, then they won’t be able to keep investigating Biden. “If we shut down, all of government shuts down — investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public,” he said.

The White House has asked for a short-term continuing resolution, which is the only viable solution at this point to keep the government open. The Senate—Democrats and many Republicans—are on board. So now it all boils down to whether McCarthy will finally buck Republican extremists and work with Democrats on a stopgap bill to extend current levels of funding and likely add additional funding for disaster relief and Ukraine support.

The far-right justices on Wisconsin's Supreme Court just can't handle the fact that liberals now have the majority for the first time in 15 years, so they're in the throes of an ongoing meltdown—and their tears are delicious. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," co-hosts David Nir and David Beard drink up all the schadenfreude they can handle as they puncture conservative claims that their progressive colleagues are "partisan hacks" (try looking in the mirror) or are breaking the law (try reading the state constitution). Elections do indeed have consequences!

Moderate House Republicans: We’re ready to fight back. House Democrats: Sure, Jan

This time they really mean it, swing district House Republicans tell Punchbowl News. They’re ready to start working on bipartisan issues and legislation and beat back the extremist Freedom Caucus so they don’t have to keep taking miserable, unpopular votes that will hurt them.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for bipartisanship,” said Rep. Nick LaLota of New York, Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Garcia of California said his group can have real leverage. “The majority is only five seats, so really every faction has the same amount of power, it’s just a matter of strategy and tactics we choose to deploy as a result of that,” the Republican said. “At some point, we need to ease up some of our positions to get to solutions.”

Both are among the 18 Republicans representing districts where a majority voted for President Joe Biden in 2020.

Moderate House Democrats will believe it when they see it.

“For 11 years I have worked in a bipartisan way on bipartisan bills on important issues,” Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, told Punchbowl News. “Now, I find it very difficult because if I try to approach them on a bill that I know we’ve worked on together for years, we get to committee and someone wants to throw a [controversial] amendment on there,” Kuster added.

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RELATED STORY: ‘Centrist’ House GOPers find their line in the sand: Tax cuts for wealthy homeowners

The part she didn’t say is that the so-called moderate Republicans don’t fight to keep those amendments out of bills—and worse: They vote for them.

Consider the traditionally bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act that passed in the House last month. It includes amendments to: ban books in military base school libraries; end the Pentagon’s policy of allowing service members leave to obtain abortions; ban gender-affirming health care for people serving in the military and their families; and ban race, gender, religion, political affiliations, or "any other ideological concepts" as the basis for personnel decisions. Those amendments all passed, with votes from most of these same GOP moderates, known as the Biden 18.

Moderates are also apparently shocked that the Freedom Caucus, the extremist Republican group currently running the show, is “selfish and short-sighted and only care about pushing their own agenda in the media instead of working with us to govern.” That quote is from Republican Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia. He’s mad that the extremists are “taking advantage” of the small Republican House majority to force their will on the rest of the conference.

And it only took him seven months to figure that out. By the time we get through August and Congress is back in session, he might have done the math to figure out 18 is bigger than five, so his team can do the same thing.

He and the rest of the Republican moderates will have a chance to put all that tough talk into action when they return in September. If they really want to help themselves and act like real representatives, they’ll figure out how to leverage that bipartisanship they long for and keep the government from shutting down.

It’s a joyous week in Wisconsin, where Janet Protasiewicz’s swearing-in means that the state Supreme Court now has its first liberal majority in 15 years. We’re talking about that monumental transition on this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” including a brand-new suit that voting rights advocates filed on Protasiewicz’s first full day on the job that asks the court to strike down the GOP’s legislative maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders.