Beating back better: this is what crisis governance looks like
By CALVIN WOODWARD
WASHINGTON (AP) – Washington’s tumultuous week of walking, chewing gum, juggling balls and spinning plates all at the same time sparks doomsday rhetoric about the state and future of the country .
Four great things are happening at once, all accompanied by hyperventilation.
The White House speaks of a “cataclysmic economic threat” if Republicans do not begin to cooperate. Republicans attack Democrats for starting a “big government socialist nation.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “Madness and disaster are now the line of the Republican Party.”
It’s a contest to see which side can fight back better. This is what crisis governance looks like. It might be the only way to do anything.
The government has essential household chores to do this time of year. Yet no deal comes until it absolutely is. Why play at the 11th hour when you have 59 minutes left?
There are a few must-haves.
The government needed legislation to stay open in the budget year that began on Friday morning. It happened, with a few hours to spare. He also has to increase or suspend his borrowing limit to cover running expenses and avoid defaulting on his debt over the next two weeks, which never happened.
Then there are the desires to do.
President Joe Biden, many Democrats and a significant number of Republicans want to build or restore roads, bridges, broadband and more in an ambitious public works program. Biden and many Democrats, but not Republicans, also want to increase social and climate spending, which could cost up to three times more than infrastructure spending.
Action on that front came to a halt on Friday despite Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill in an attempt to break the deadlock between liberal and moderate Democrats on the two packages and get Congress to move forward on its overall agenda. He said he was convinced his schedule would prevail, whether it took âsix minutes, six days or six weeks,â although the way forward was murky.
Crises arose, as is usually the case in Washington, when one issue tied to another and the things that needed to be done were held hostage to what lawmakers wanted to do.
It can defy logic. It’s also how big changes often happen.
A feeling of dancing on the precipice lingered throughout the week in a capital with a 50-50 Senate, a tightly divided House, an arrogant Democratic left flank, stubborn Democratic centrists, gleefully obstructionist Republicans and a president struggling to hold on. his promise to restore skills and normalcy after the Donald Trump years.
To a large extent, the Moderate Democrats want the infrastructure plan, the Liberals want the ultimate package, and Biden wants both. The divisions exposed within the party over this agenda could not leave him either.
As negotiations with lawmakers went on in private midweek, Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki joked that the outcome would determine whether the Biden administration was living in idealistic drama or farce.
âMaybe ‘The West Wing’ if something good is going on,â she said. “Maybe ‘Veep’ if not.”
Republicans hurled their favorite insult with abandon, branding Democrats as aspiring socialists, and used the dismay to try to define Biden as an inept leader.
Republican House Leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, ticked off “border crisis”, “inflation crisis”, “labor crisis”, “China crisis” and “crisis” of foreign policy âas all converging at the same time. “Democrats want to enlist a bureaucratic army to achieve their goal of a great government socialist nation,” he said.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, called Biden’s program “an accelerator of socialism.”
The words were no less passionate on the other side.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, advocating the lifting of the debt ceiling, accused resistant Republicans of leaving the country vulnerable to a “cascading catastrophe of unbelievable proportions” that could “damage America for 100 years.” . Pelosi, D-Calif., Quoted JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in his House speech.
Few doubt that the consequences of defaulting on the American debt would be serious. Failure to raise the debt ceiling could drive up interest rates on auto and home loans, for example. But few expect this to happen.
When the Tea Party class of 2011 first threatened to default on their debt, they were outliers. Now, it’s standard operating procedure in the GOP to keep this long unthinkable threat alive, even though Republicans may not be serious about letting it unfold.
Avoiding default is just one of the procedural steps or routine tasks that have become weapons in Congress, especially in the Senate by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who still demands a price for cooperating with Democrats, even if it’s just to embarrass them.
Partial government shutdowns, however, is a line lawmakers are prepared to cross. The longest shutdown in history came under Trump, 35 days until January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his US-Mexico border wall. Trump backed down.
Trump’s immigration policy also triggered a three-day shutdown a year earlier. In 2013, a Republican attempt to torpedo money from the Obama-era health care bill triggered a shutdown that lasted 16 days and, as in other cases, put hundreds of thousands of federal workers on leave. .
This time, lawmakers have struck a deal in the last few hours to fund the government until December 3, when they will have to take it into account again. Instead of defusing the bomb, Stephen Colbert cracked up on “The Late Show”, “they just hit the bomb snooze button.”
Some experts in government operations see parallels in the 1983 Social Security showdown – undeniably a crisis because the program only lasted a few months between insolvency and a deal being struck.
It’s worse, said Paul Light, a public service professor at New York University and most recent author of “The Government-Industrial Complex,” which tracks the operations and scale of government for the past 35 years. years.
âBack then, it was enough to bring the president, the majority leader and the president to the table,â he said. âNow, 15 heavyweights, chosen or self-proclaimed, must sign.
âThose kinds of moments are pretty rare,â Light added. âWe drift year after year with a drop in the number of bills introduced and passed, but we still manage to budget almost on time and occasional bills are enacted. This made the 1983 crisis child’s play.
Even as the insults erupted last week, hints of agreement could be seen here and there, as could the weariness at all the posturing.
Despite all his criticism from the other side, Cornyn said during negotiations that at the end of the day, “Democrats don’t want to shut down government, Republicans don’t want to shut down government.” This will provide the result we all expect, which is to keep the lights on. His prediction was correct.
On the Democratic divide over infrastructure and Biden’s even larger plan, Hawaii’s Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono was reaching exasperation.
âIt’s that kind of thing where it happens when it happens,â Hirono said. âSo, in the meantime, I say, everyone, be realistic. Tell us what you can support and we can have something to discuss and discuss and come to a conclusion. “
Associated Press editors Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.