Opinion: An absolute waste of time

After 13 months of unprecedented legislative dysfunction, the governing troubles of U.S. House Republicans aren’t over, as lawmakers must try – yet again – to navigate around a pair of government shutdown deadlines.

When the calendar hits March 1, Congress will be five months late on spending work for 2024. Let’s be clear — that was a choice.

Lawmakers had a chance to finish the dozen bills that fund the federal government in December, but Republicans — led by their new House Speaker Mike Johnson — wanted no part of a giant pre-holiday spending plan.

“We can no longer afford to continue the status quo of enormous, inflated, last-minute spending packages,” declared U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville before Thanksgiving.

At the time, Republicans said avoiding an ‘Omnibus’ funding package was a GOP victory. But all it did was delay the inevitable.

Instead of voting before Christmas to approve a big package of spending bills negotiated behind closed doors, Congress is on course to approve a big package of spending bills negotiated behind closed doors — by Easter.

And the details really won’t be any different.

“I think it would have been better to get that done in December rather than in March,” said U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who was the acting Speaker for a few weeks last year. “The politics aren’t better. We’re not getting better public policy.”

The original GOP idea was that the House would use December and maybe January to act on individual funding bills for 2024.

But with Republicans fighting each other over spending, that process quickly ran aground.

“The House has not passed a single appropriations bill since November of last year,” complained U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson.

Everyone knows what will happen when the details of all twelve government funding bills are finally dumped on lawmakers: many Republicans will denounce the process, loudly rebuke House GOP leaders, and vow to oppose the plans.

And then a coalition of Democrats and Republicans will likely join together to approve those funding plans —that’s the bipartisan governing majority that exists in the House right now.

But there could still be one late plot twist here on Capitol Hill. You probably shouldn’t rule out the chance of a government shutdown if the deals can’t be finalized.

Some agencies are set to lose funding on March 1, while the Pentagon and other departments run out of money on March 8.

Once again, instead of debating real policy changes, we are watching a chaotic Congress lurch from shutdown deadline to shutdown deadline. What a waste of time.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com