With just days before the government shuts down over President Trump’s border wall-inspired temper tantrum, questions are rising about the willingness of Republican legislators defeated in the mid-term elections to still bother showing up for work, according to an article in The New York Times this afternoon.
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The failure of lame-duck representatives to turn up for votes is imperiling the GOP’s last-minute attempts to pass legislation while they still control a majority in the House of Representatives and is making the calculus involved in determining whether the party can take a leading role in reaching a compromise over the looming shutdown too difficult to determine.
President Trump has been counting on Republican support in the House to secure the funding for the border wall that he originally swore that Mexico would pay for. In the absence of the funding — which has zero chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate with the 60 votes necessary under that chambers rules — Trump has petulantly threatened to veto any spending bill that doesn’t give him the construction budget he seeks.
However, with no guidance from the White House — as Trump sits in his bedroom watching TV and tweeting incessantly about how the collusion he initially denied really isn’t a crime anyway and hey, what about Hillary and those crooked Democrats? — House Speaker Paul Ryan gave representatives a six-day recess that has them returning to vote only two days before the deadline on Friday at midnight that would cease operations of multiple government agencies if no funding bill is passed.
Ironically one of the agencies that would be shuttered would be the very Department of Homeland Security that is tasked with protecting the borders that Trump believes are so vulnerable that they need a wall to protect them.
Yet with no game plan for resolving the shutdown crisis, many departing GOP representatives are questioning whether it’s worth returning to Washington so close to the Christmas holidays after they’ve already been ousted from their congressional offices to make way for the incoming crop of legislators who’ve been elected to take their places.
According to The Times:
“’No one has any idea what the play call is — we don’t know what’s going on,’ said Representative Ryan A. Costello, Republican of Pennsylvania, who, because he is retiring, has already surrendered his office suite for a cramped cubicle.”
“’You don’t have an office,’ he added. ‘You’re in wind-down mode, saying goodbye to people and wrapping up, and just putting your voting card in the machine and pressing red or green. It’s going through the motions.’”
“And he’s one of the lawmakers who have actually been showing up. In recent weeks, anywhere from a handful to more than two dozen Republicans have failed to cast votes on individual bills, leaving leaders uncertain of their numbers. Some lawmakers cited personal reasons; Representative Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, following guidance given months ago that Congress would adjourn by Dec. 13, may miss votes to get married, while Representative Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who was re-elected, is taking a leave because of illness.”
Perhaps it’s laziness, perhaps it’s depression over losing a hotly contested election, but the demoralized Republican legislators have only their party’s president to blame for their situation, as even conservative analysts agree that Trump’s self-serving agenda has undermined the representatives’ ability to accomplish their own goals.
“There is a great disjunction between their motives and his, and this has been a theme of this Congress,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a Congresional scholar at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. “Trump does these things without thinking about what his allies in Congress would want or need; he does it with this bluster and this narcissism; and then we end up with this farce.”
Ornstein speculated that Trump may be looking at the potential government shutdown as a way to direct media attention away from his ever-mounting legal peril.
“The closer it gets to him, the more he wants a distraction and the more he wants to gin up his base, but from the perspective of Republicans, doing a shutdown while they’re still running everything just makes them look like idiots,” Mr. Ornstein said.
With Trump having foolishly allowed himself to be goaded into taking full responsibility for a shutdown that could cost the nations billions of dollars, he’s backed both himself and his party into a corner in having to shoulder full blame for the fiasco and his now-defeated minions want nothing more to do with it. They’ll get paid either way, so why bother showing up for work?
The GOP House shirkers have raised hackles among their Senate counterparts.
“I don’t understand why people don’t come to work and work all the way through December when the taxpayers are paying them,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, who is a former House member. “I mean, finish your job.”
By the end of the week, we’ll find out just how many defeated congresspeople will be willing to return to finish their jobs, but with the new Democratic majority taking power in January and already planning their own spending bill sans border wall funding, those lame-ducks have little incentive to do more than go through the motions at this point.
It will be an interesting week.
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