Opinion: GOP toys again with a shutdown threat

Six weeks after House Republicans were on the verge of stumbling into a government shutdown, the same thing is happening again — as the election of a new U.S. House Speaker hasn’t changed much of anything in Congress.

Even after a 22-day governing debacle in October, GOP lawmakers are repeating the same internal debates on spending, still trying to forge a package of budget cuts to go with a temporary funding plan.

It didn’t work in September for the GOP, and is unlikely to work this time.

“Republicans are wasting time on political games,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why Republicans want to rein in the deficit and the national debt. There is way too much red ink. Yearly deficits of over $1.5 trillion are totally unacceptable.

The problem is the House GOP answer has not been passing comprehensive spending plans, but instead threatening a crisis in order to get what they want.

In June, it was a possible default on the debt limit. Then a government shutdown threat in September. And now, another possible shutdown showdown.

Conservatives have had repeated chances to approve spending cuts on the House floor in recent weeks, but they’ve suffered defeat after defeat.

For example, a GOP plan to cut $1.5 billion from federal energy and water programs received 100 votes in the full House.

76 lawmakers voted to cut $620 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

75 members voted for an $8.7 billion cut at the Department of Homeland Security.

71 voted for a $717 million cut at the Department of Agriculture.

You get the picture. Those defeats have aggravated some Republicans who want dramatic action.

“We are not unified,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome. She accused GOP moderates of ‘revenge voting’ against conservative budget plans.

But moderates view some of those plans as a direct threat to their own future. For example, a transportation funding bill — which included a giant 65% cut for Amtrak that was opposed by New York Republicans — was yanked off the House floor this week before it could be defeated.

It was the first spending setback for new House Speaker Mike Johnson.

“We’re having very constructive discussions,” Johnson said as he struggled to forge a GOP shutdown plan.

In other words, the new House Speaker can’t wave a wand to get spending unity within Republican ranks.

Congress must approve a temporary funding plan by Nov. 17, or face a shutdown.

“This moment calls for bipartisanship,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

That’s not the first instinct for House Republicans.

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