Congress finally showed some unity over the last two weeks as members of both parties demanded President Obama ask them to authorize a military strike in Syria and then criticized him for actually doing it. But now that the almost-war in Syria is over, Congress is back to its usual dysfunctional self.
Congress delayed a vote on Syria while the U.S. pursues a compromise with Russia to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. That freed up time for Congress to work on other things, like government funding, which expires on October 1. But House Republican leaders decided on Wednesday to delay a vote on a government funding bill till next week. That means the soonest they could vote on a government funding bill would be Thursday, Politico explains. The House is scheduled to take another break the following week, and return on September 30, the last day before funding runs out. And Roll Call's David Hawkings reports that the break week — which is technically a "district work period" — "would generate just the sort of news vacuum" for Syria hawks to demand action, perhaps on "a conditional use-of-force resolution" if the Russia-Syria negotiations falter.
So we are back to familiar panic over how Congress will keep the government running and pay the country's debts. "In just two frantic days, rank-and-file House Republicans sidelined leadership’s plan to fund the government and take another nonbinding, quixotic vote on defunding President Barack Obama’s signature health care law," Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan report. Since the late summer, some Republicans have been threatening a government shutdown unless Obamacare is defunded. But Republican leaders think that will cost them too much politically, and tried to push a different Obamacare vote that would avoid the risk of a 1996-esque shutdown. Conservatives rejected it. Rep. Justin Amash tweeted on Tuesday, "I do not support the #hocuspocus plan that doesn't really defund #Obamacare." The same day, Sen. Ted Cruz issued a press release blasting the idea.
Last night, news reports surfaced that the House of Representatives might vote to ‘defund Obamacare’ in a way that easily allows Senate Democrats to keep funding Obamacare. If House Republicans go along with this strategy, they will be complicit in the disaster that is Obamacare.
RedState editor Erick Erickson wrote Tuesday afternoon that things were getting heated:
Multiple people confirm to me that just a few hours ago Pete Sessions blew up about Ted Cruz and made sure everyone in the room knew he held Cruz in absolute contempt.
It might be because Ted Cruz just called BS on Eric Cantor and Pete Sessions trying to screw conservatives.
So now, House Republicans don't know what they're going to do. When a reporter asked Boehner if he had another idea to pass a government funding bill, he said, "No.. Do you have an idea? ... They’ll just shoot it down anyway."
Frustration is widespread. "When asked their thoughts about a continuing resolution and the possibility of a government shutdown, a GOP aide simply sent over a YouTube clip from the movie Zoolander, where Will Ferrell’s character declares he feels like he is taking crazy pills," BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera reports. Politico reports, "And in private discussions, GOP leadership aides acknowledge they have absolutely no idea how they’ll lift the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling." House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy told The National Review that the debt ceiling would be the "perfect" opportunity to take on Obamacare. Cantor told Republicans this week that they could use the debt limit to get Obama to delay Obamacare for a year. The debt limit must be raised by about October 15, and Obama has repeatedly said he won't negotiate over it.