There’s a big backlog of critical business facing Congress when members return in January, thanks to all those issues they put off dealing with in 2023. The House will reconvene with an ever-slimmer Republican majority that is somehow even more dysfunctional than the one that kicked off this year. An ousted speaker, an expelled member, a simmering civil war, and midterm retirements made for a bitter end to the first session of the 118th Congress and set Speaker Mike Johnson up for a potentially catastrophic second half in 2024.
Congress left for its holiday break in mid-December, one-quarter of the way into the 2024 fiscal year, with no agreement between the House and Senate on overall funding levels after House Republicans reneged on the agreement they made with President Joe Biden to resolve the last big crisis over the debt ceiling. That deal was brokered under the last speaker, Kevin McCarthy, in one of his desperate attempts to keep his job. The current speaker is showing little inclination to reverse course.
“We all shook hands, we passed it,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, told Politico earlier this month. “And now the speaker is saying: ‘Never mind, we’re going to go backwards.’”
The continued stalemate is going to make meeting the Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 deadlines to fund the government for the rest of the 2024 fiscal year challenging, to say the least, even while Congress is supposed to be putting together its budget for the 2025 fiscal year. As if.
Though still a newbie speaker, Johnson is already stymied by the extremist Freedom Caucus, whose far-right members keep holding the threat of what happened to McCarthy over him. One of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, Eli Crane of Arizona, is making that abundantly clear.
“One of the positives is that the precedent has now been set for the first time in history that at least with this group, and this slim majority: If you make repeated promises that you do not keep, you will be held accountable,” Crane told The Hill.
A bunch of less extreme House Republicans took a stab at changing the rules so that one chaos agent—aka Matt Gaetz—no longer has the individual power to get the ball rolling on ending a speakership. The push to overhaul the “motion to vacate” rule went nowhere, and is still causing tension in the conference.
“We looked like a bunch of idiots. We looked like a banana republic a few months ago,” McCarthy ally Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana told The Messenger. “I don’t think you should have one moron that should be able to trigger that vote.”
Speaking for the “morons,” new Freedom Caucus chair Bob Good of Virginia is happy with the status quo—and happy to wield the threat against Johnson.
“I think most of us hope it would never need to be filed again,” Good said, but added, “you can’t control the future.”
While that internecine war is bubbling away, Johnson also faces the reality of an even slimmer majority than his predecessor wrestled with. With said predecessor deciding to jump ship early, New York’s George Santos expelled, and Ohio’s Bill Johnson on his way out the door early next year, the new speaker is only going to have two Republican votes to spare—that is, as long as Democrats remain unified, something they’ve become remarkably good at.
Johnson has already had to rely on Democrats to keep the government running and pass the big defense authorization bill his party’s hard-liners hated, moves that made him even less popular with the maniacs running roughshod over his conference. Any way you slice it, the first few weeks of January are going to be pretty darned miserable for Johnson, and he’s finally going to be forced to make decisions about how to deal with his fractious caucus.
Defense bill deal made, hard-right House members fume
Hey, Kev—Don’t let the door hit you on the way out
GOP infighting intensifies as Matt Gaetz targets Republicans
It’s official: GOP House did a whole lot of nothing this year
Campaign Action SOURCE