A handful of Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill Wednesday made it clear that they think their colleagues on the other side of the building would ultimately be the ones responsible for any potential government shutdown.
Democrats have been pointing the finger at far-right House Republicans for some time now, and recently adopted new language to make it clear whose fault a “MAGA shutdown” would be.
The messaging appears designed to help shield President Joe Biden’s White House from any blame if the federal government does come to a halt.
But strategy or not they are not alone in their perception.
“I’m convinced it’s happening,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told reporters on Wednesday when asked if he was worried about a government shutdown.
“I just think there are too many people that think that there’s some benefit in that,” he added as he headed to the Senate chamber for a vote. “The House is a raucous place and some people like government shutdowns, so we’ll see.”
One of the most consistently vocal MAGA critics, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), echoed a similar sentiment.
Romney told reporters on Wednesday he thinks a shutdown is “very likely.”
“I’m reading the newspapers. I’m reading what you’re writing. Sounds like the House is gonna have a hard time reaching consensus,” Romney added.
He’s not wrong. For weeks before the August recess, far-right House Republicans handicapped typically uneventful appropriations committee meetings and turned them into battle grounds over their party’s manufactured culture wars and MAGA grievances.
MAGA Republicans stuffed the bills with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ amendments and argued they simply want to cut government spending to pre-COVID levels. But instead they’ve created appropriations bills that are dead on arrival at the Senate.
And so, the House left for its lengthy recess with multiple appropriations bills still stuck in committee.
Meanwhile, in an historic effort, the Senate passed all 12 appropriations bills out of the committee before leaving for recess.
The federal government will shut down unless a spending bill is passed by Sep. 30. That leaves about 15 legislative days for lawmakers to agree on a plan – and even less time for the House where members don’t return to Washington until next week.
Many lawmakers are now hoping for a stopgap. Both Democratic and Republican leadership have indicated that a temporary deal to fund the government would buy lawmakers on both sides of the aisle more time to come to an agreement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) all agree a short-term bill will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown. But the Freedom Caucus has vowed to oppose any short-term solution unless leadership meets a list of demands.
“[McCarthy’s] got a tough job,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) said, as he walked on to the Senate subway following a floor vote.
When asked if House Republicans will have to compromise to avoid a shutdown, Young shook his head “yes” through the subway’s glass door.
“Hopefully, get it done.” Romney said when asked if he has a message for the House.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a statement Wednesday showing his support for the “minibus” appropriations bill the Senate is planning to vote on next week, which will involve combining a handful of appropriations bills into one package.
“While the spending levels and policy differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate are large, I hope regular order will prevail and we work to pass appropriations bills through both bodies,” Graham wrote, saying he supports the supplemental funding Biden asked for in the form of disaster relief and Ukraine aid.
“It is obvious to me this will be a challenge,” Graham added, referring to his calls for the House to follow the Senate’s lead and reach a bipartisan deal.
Senate Democrats also kept up their criticism of the House Republicans and their hostage taking on Wednesday.
“I’m worried about the far right extremists on the Republican side of the House and what they may do to hold hostage the supplemental for Ukraine [and] almost everything else,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told TPM.
And Senate Majority Leader Schumer, once again, called on House Republicans to get on board and help avoid a shutdown by working together with Democrats.
“I implore, I beg my House Republican colleagues to follow the Senate’s lead to recognize that time is short,” Schumer said during a Wednesday press conference. “And the only way, the only way to avoid a shutdown is through bipartisanship in both the House and the Senate.”
Correction: The original version of this post misidentified Sen. Blumenthal’s state. He represents Connecticut.