Another government funding deadline looms in Washington on January 19, precisely two weeks before Groundhog Day. While this Congress has been the least productive in modern history, it has produced multiple versions of the shutdown dance, and other predictable jigs, worthy of being added to Groundhog Day 2.
How has this movie sequel not been made yet? A movie famously about repeating history hasn’t been repeated. Come on Hollywood, how’d you miss this one?
“Shut the border down or we will shut the government down,” was the language several Republicans were using last week on social media platforms, according to Forbes. I came across one of these posts myself, hoping it was an outlier. The problem in the House right now is that the “outliers” have been running it.
Speaker Mike Johnson reached a tentative funding deal with Democrats over the weekend that will not satisfy these outliers, just like the last speaker’s deal didn’t. As reported by PBS News Hour, the spending package doesn’t deeply cut anything and leaves negotiations on funding for Ukraine, Israel and broad border policy changes still to be addressed separately.
If it seems like a status quo deal, it’s because it primarily is one. “It reflects the funding levels that I negotiated with both parties and signed into law last spring,” President Biden said in response. Democrat leaders in both the Senate and House also gave the deal their approvals.
Outliers, particularly in the House, won’t like this one bit. The only question at the moment is whether they will go along with their new speaker or if they will run Johnson out just like they did Kevin McCarthy last year. Other than the person holding the gavel, I don’t see what has changed.
Except, of course, the most recent absurd negotiation stance about the border. It’s as if the outliers don’t understand that shutting down the government, at some point and by definition, also means handicapping border enforcement. Details are not the specialty of the outliers.
On Sunday, new House Republican Conference chairperson, Elise Stefanik, appeared on Meet the Press. It was an interview that provoked media critics to blast the new host of the show, Kristen Welker, for not pushing back on some of the litany of inaccuracies or offensive characterizations Stefanik made. The reference to those convicted for offenses committed at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 as “hostages,” brought the most ire. But Welker’s passiveness as the interviewer did allow the chairperson to reveal something important.
When asked if she will commit to certifying the results of the election, Stefanik said, “We will see if this is a legal and valid election.” Talk about Groundhog Day. This is the exact sentiment that led to the insurrection. It’s an unending circle of rhetoric that comes from the GOP these days. But unlike the outliers who are disinclined to support the latest funding deal, this is leadership that is unable to commit to election results.
Stefanik’s primary point in this area is that Democrats are trying to remove their leading candidate from the ballot and that applying the plain language of the constitution is voter suppression. Though in the wake of the 2020 election, it is the GOP that sponsored specific voter restrictions in at least 19 states, according to NBC News.
The message is clear, though leaders aren’t saying it out loud just yet. The GOP will not accept election results it doesn’t like. The objections to election results are still primarily focused on the presidential race, though it misses the fact that there is no place in America where the presidential race appears on a ballot alone. Again, this convenient, irrational and illogical election denialism features a sinister game of cherry picking in its preemptively fraudulent claims.
These two notions, government shutdowns and election denialism, are no longer outliers of the Republican platform, but pillars of it.
More than 60 Republican members of the House made a trip to the southern border last week, a performative move designed to emphasize the chaos there in hopes of inspiring more government action. And if they don’t get the action they seek, they want government to cease to exist. Positions like this only make sense to those who have abandoned a fundamental American philosophy of self-governance, in favor of non-governance.
And how do we govern? Through elections.
The reason their leader’s candidacy is under threat is because of election denialism and the things that are now the predictable results of it. For leaders in the GOP to start this election year off with identical language that led to an insurrection is not something to take lightly.
America will need a well-funded, well-functioning government to deal with this madness.