A group of radical Republican deputies, the so-called ‘Freedom Caucus’, carried out its threat. As they had warned, 21 rejected the budget extension project presented by their own party because the cost cuts they requested were not included. A decision that led the US to suffer a new ‘government shutdown’: from midnight Saturday to Sunday, the funds of the federal Administration to pay civilians and suspend non-essential services, such as national parks or museums.
This thirteenth crisis was again caused by strong internal divisions in the Republican Party. The conservatives got a small majority of 9 seats in the legislative elections last November, but in practice they revealed themselves as a minority from which about twenty radicals who refused to follow the voting discipline were separated. From the first day they made their position clear, refusing to vote for the leader of their party, Kevin McCarthy, as president of the Congress for 15 eternal votes. And now they unleashed the first crisis at the national level.
All this despite the fact that McCarthy refused to vote on the bipartisan budget extension project that was approved by a large majority in the Senate, based on the agreement reached by the two parties in May to prevent the country from declaring itself to suspend the payment. . Instead, the Republican leader presented a partisan proposal, with more severe cuts than the first agreed, with the aim of satisfying these radicals and opening a second round of negotiations with the threat of a crisis on the table.
Specifically, the project presented by McCarthy will implement a 30% cut in social programs such as housing subsidies for the poorest, cancer research, nutritional assistance for pregnant women and newborns, cleaning of nuclear waste or Justice, etc. A ‘poisoned apple’ that nearly 200 Republicans had to swallow instead of nothing, and that Democrats are eager to use against them in the next campaign.
The Freedom Caucus demanded the approval of budgets item by item, up to a total of 12 separate laws, instead of a unified text of thousands of pages, as has been done. However, the insistence on approving even deeper cuts than those negotiated led to the defeat of the first of the 12 laws, which the radicals themselves rejected. And, at this point, there is no time or hope that all of these projects will be approved.
Opposing, the Democratic and Republican senators insisted that the budgets agreed by the leaders of the two parties in June be approved. But McCarthy feared that if he brought the budgets to a vote in Congress, he would unleash an internal rebellion that would end in a vote of no confidence. That is why the president of the Congress finds himself paralyzed and becomes a kind of legislative ‘dog in the manger’: he cannot approve anything with his own votes alone and is afraid to put the a bipartisan project in a vote that could mean the end of his political career.
On the table is the possibility that five Republican deputies will sign, together with the Democrats, a petition to control the agenda and bring the bipartisan project to a vote, bypassing McCarthy, who can wash his hands this. So far only one Republican has shown himself ready to sign, due to the widespread fear that former President Donald Trump, in favor of shutting down the Government, will launch a campaign against the re-election of the deputies who participated.
Until now, the record for the longest government shutdown is held by Trump, who took 35 days to approve the budgets in 2019. At that time the president himself refused to sign the agreement, saying that he was ready to incurring the political cost of doing so. The question is how much it can do.