And they’ll have to govern.
Before we begin, let us all stipulate to two facts: 1) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is good at one thing and one thing only: obstructing a Democratic president; and 2) Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, is a truly terrible politician on almost every level on which one can be a terrible politician, but especially as a legislative leader. God, John Boehner must laugh over his lawn mower every morning these days.
It seems that there is a problem with the Congress. They’re coming back with too…much…work…to…do. There’s the budget, and the debt ceiling, and now there’s a massive weather catastrophe to confront. What’s a national legislature to do? Politico has the skinny. Job One: pass that buck!
Officials won’t have a grasp on losses for weeks to come, but President Donald Trump said Monday that he will soon request disaster relief from Capitol Hill. “I think you’re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president. You’re going to get your funding,” Trump said at a news conference. “I’ve already spoken to Congress, and everybody feels for you.” For their part, GOP congressional leaders aren’t yet giving concrete signs on how they might swoop in with assistance, but they could attach an emergency spending package to a continuing resolution needed to fund the government. “We will help those affected by this terrible disaster,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong, adding that the first step in that process is a formal request for resources from the administration.
This is what you got elected to handle. Some of this stuff—the debt ceiling, the budget—are the everyday responsibilities of every Congress and, because we all live on planet Earth, where unanticipated weather events are fairly common among the natives, that’s part of why you got elected, too. God, they’re a mess, in the House especially. Half their caucus is made up of jumped-up county commissioners, gibbering Bible-banging fanatics, and jamokes gobbling Alex Jones brain pills with both hands. Ryan can’t control them any more than Boehner could. It is unseemly for a Speaker to work with a whip and a chair.
Unfortunately for Ryan, and for the rest of us, this cry of loons scares the half-sane portion of his caucus to death, so it wields an unusual amount of power for a collection of crazy people.
Some conservative Republicans are likely to balk at any increased spending, as they have after previous natural disasters — which could further inflame the conflict between the likes of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus and GOP leadership. Freedom Caucus officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on disaster relief, nor did several Texans in the group. Still, divvying up some extra cash could actually ease leadership’s legislative woes. “There’s a huge amount of political pressure. You can’t vote against this,” says David Inserra, a policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “So there’s going to be pressure to put money out there, whether it’s in a supplemental or a CR.”
This is our most desperate hour. Save us Nancy Pelosi. You’re our only hope.
The thinking is that the extra element of Harvey funding could actually be a boon for GOP leaders who were already planning to ditch their most conservative flank on key fiscal votes and who have long been resigned to needing Democrats to get must-pass spending legislation to the president. “The wise thing to do would be to attach it to the CR. It avoids the shutdown fight,” said a defense lobbyist who works on appropriations, adding that bundling Harvey funds with the typically toxic vote to raise the debt limit could also be advantageous. Besides solidifying support from the minority party, the disaster money could guarantee support from the Texas delegation — the largest GOP contingent in Congress, with 25 Republicans — as well as other Republicans who want to support disaster relief, even if they don’t like the underlying spending measures. “The political need to sweeten a vote could take precedence,” said a senior Democratic aide. “A lot of Republicans are going to want to vote for it.”
We’ve been through this conundrum before, during SuperStorm Sandy and, before that, during Hurricane Katrina. Texas senators John Cornyn and Tailgunner Ted Cruz have been taking some heat for comments they made concerning the relief package for Sandy, and a 2005 quote from then-Congressman Mike Pence was making the rounds Tuesday. “Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren,” Pence said. To paraphrase the blog’s First Law of Economics: Fck the Deficit. People got no homes. People got no money.
We are living through an even more vivid case study of what happens when a political movement runs against politics, and when members of the government are installed in the government on the principle that government is bad. Paralysis is inevitable. Sooner or later, the absurdity of it all becomes unsupportable. If you are very lucky, that moment comes without a body count. We are not very lucky these days.