The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Washington (AFP) – With the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, the Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to advance a stopgap spending bill that would avoid federal closures.

The 100-0 vote masks deep divisions within Congress over what course to take in the next five days to thrash out a temporary measure that funds government operations beyond Monday, the final day of the current fiscal year.

The Senate now begins debate on a measure, originally passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives, that funds government at current levels through December 15, but which also strips President Barack Obama’s three-year-old health care law of all its funding.

The Senate’s Democratic majority leader Harry Reid has vowed to strip the bill of the health care provision, insisting that no legislation that defunds so-called “Obamacare” will pass his chamber.

Reid said he will also amend the budget bill to fund government until November 15 instead of mid-December.

The Senate is on track to pass its legislation by “sometime on Sunday,” Reid said, leaving the House 48 hours or less to either pass the amended bill or send a re-worked counteroffer back to the Senate.

“I would hope we can expedite this,” Reid said, referring to possible agreement by Republicans to compress the time needed before the next procedural vote. “We have a lot to do and I hope we can get there as quickly as we can.”

If no spending agreement is reached, government agencies would begin shutting their doors Tuesday, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers would be ordered to stay home with no pay.

But in a sign of the divisive nature of the debate, conservative Senator Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor beginning Tuesday for an extraordinary, 21-hour speech railing against Obamacare as “the biggest job killer in this country.

“The American people want to stop this madness, and so do I,” Cruz said.

Many Republicans have expressed opposition to the strategy, warning it could backfire and not leave the House enough time to consider the Senate measure.

If government were forced into shutdown, they said, Republicans would be blamed for the debacle and it would hurt the party’s standing in next year’s congressional elections.

Even though all senators including Cruz voted to advance the bill, Republican lawmakers remained universally opposed to Obamacare, with some insisting it was game on in the fight to defund it.

“This is just the beginning,” vowed Senator Jeff Sessions. “We will not allow this country to socialize medicine.”

But Democrats sternly warned that including such a fight in the budget negotiations was flirting with disaster.

“They’re going to take us right to the brink,” a steaming Senator Dick Durbin said.

The White House weighed in as well, with spokesman Jay Carney saying “it would be irresponsible to not fund the essential functions of the government out of ideological pique.”

As lawmakers squabble over the way forward, a second fiscal crisis was rapidly approaching: the need to raise the U.S. debt ceiling or risk a catastrophic credit default.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned that the government will reach its statutory debt cap by October 17.

“If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history,” Lew said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

Lew urged Congress to “act immediately” and increase the borrowing ceiling, which has been locked at $16.7 trillion since May.

But some Republicans have suggested they will use the debt ceiling debate as the next Obamacare battle front, saying the House could pass a measure this week that raises the debt ceiling but delays key elements of the health law.

During a crippling 2011 budget battle, the issue of raising the debt ceiling was wrapped into the budget fight, and many worry the same could happen again in a fresh bout of brinksmanship that could rock markets.

Lew reminded lawmakers that the 2011 impasse “caused significant harm to the economy.”

That fight was resolved just hours before the country could have defaulted on its debt, but nevertheless led to a historic downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, the first time the United States has ever lost its AAA status with Standard & Poor’s.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump, right

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is examined in a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}