I heartily enjoy watching Republicans self-destruct. It's so much more pleasant than seeing Democrats do the same thing, which for me is painful, since I'm a progressive.
However, the current Clown Car episode in the GOP-controlled House, though amusing on one level, is deadly serious on another, because Speaker McCarthy and the wacko MAGA extremists in his caucus are speedily driving the federal government toward a harmful shutdown.
That will happen at 12:01 am tomorrow night, since that's when the federal fiscal year ends and the current budget is no more.
Now, an entirely reasonable question is why Congress has dithered and dawdled through the current fiscal year until, like Cinderella, most federal programs are going to become shadows of their former selves at the stroke of midnight on September 30.
Unfortunately many Americans -- maybe even most Americans -- are going to think that because Republicans control the House, and Democrats control the Senate and presidency, both parties are equally to blame for the impending failure to fund the government past the end of September.
This is because most Americans have better things to do than keep up on the details of the messy political goings-on in Washington, D.C. Can't blame them. Those happenings tend to be difficult to observe.
But earlier in the year there was an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Washington that while not exactly a thing of beauty, at least was borderline attractive. It prevented a default on our nation's debt, as it raised the debt limit in a bipartisan fashion -- albeit just in time.
A Reuters story describes part of the budgetary agreement.
The deal would suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling until Jan. 1, 2025, allowing the U.S. government to pay its bills.
In exchange, non-defense discretionary spending would be "roughly flat" at current year levels in 2024, "when factoring in agreed upon appropriations adjustments," according to White House officials.
They estimated that total non-defense discretionary spending excluding benefits for veterans would total $637 billion for the 2024 fiscal year, down marginally from $638 billion the year before. That total would also increase by 1% in 2025.
Thus the deal that Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans agreed to was to have non-defense discretionary spending be roughly flat in fiscal year 2024, which begins October 1, 2023. But now McCarthy and his Clown Car band of GOP crazies want to tear up the deal and hugely reduce that spending.
That's despicable. How can you negotiate with someone who doesn't keep their end of an agreement?
The only reason we're facing a shutdown of the federal government is that House Republicans want to slash the budgets of programs Americans count on rather than honor the agreement reached last June between President Biden, the Senate, and House.
Today House Republicans rejected a short-term budget proposal that was horrific, but not horrible enough to please the GOP MAGA caucus.
Had House Republicans’ stopgap bill been adopted, it would have cut hundreds of billions of dollars from programs important to millions of Americans, including nutritional aid for poor pregnant mothers, housing subsidies for low-income families, and medical research and environmental protection, among many other federal operations.
Although the House GOP plan would spare the military, veterans’ benefits and immigration enforcement from cuts, many other domestic programs would face immediate 30 percent budget reductions, and some education subsidies and energy aid for poor families would be axed by more than half.
The spending levels for the next fiscal year, which begins Sunday, were supposed to have been set in a deal that McCarthy and President Biden agreed to in exchange for House support to suspend the debt ceiling. But as McCarthy has struggled to win over a handful of conservative lawmakers, he instructed House Republicans to draft bigger and bigger spending cuts that make all full-year funding bills dead on arrival in the Senate.
So it looks like we're headed for a government shutdown. And the blame should fall squarely on the Clown Car Caucus, otherwise known as House Republicans. Keep that in mind when you cast your ballot in November 2024.