Update: President signs deadline extension to avoid government shutdown
WASHINGTON (CNN) — This Congress is going out just the way it began: in complete disarray.
Fourteen months after tea party conservatives ignored Republican leaders and forced a two-week government shutdown, another one came close to happening — this time because liberals were blowing off President Barack Obama’s pleas to support a government funding measure.
In the early morning hours Friday, Obama signed a two-day extension, and the Senate is expected to pick up the legislation and vote on it later Friday, though they have until midnight Saturday before the next deadline.
For weeks, legislative leaders insisted another shutdown wouldn’t happen. And it didn’t. But the House was just two hours away, and the Senate might not cast its final votes until this weekend.
Another flirtation with another deadline — this one after a midterm election that swept Republicans into control of the Senate — offers a grim glimpse at the paralyzing levels of dissent that could come next.
Republicans don’t fear their leadership. And Democrats don’t need their President.
After November’s elections, when the GOP won the Senate and expanded its majority in the House, party leaders claimed a mandate. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged that with Republicans in control of both chambers come January, things will be different. More amendments will be allowed. “Center-right” legislation will advance.
But long-clear divisions on the right remain — and were evident in the House when 16 Republicans, many angry that the party hadn’t fought harder to block Obama’s executive action on immigration, opposed the measure in a key procedural vote and nearly dealt their leaders a major blow. By the end of the night, 67 Republicans voted against the measure’s final passage.
Conservative lawmakers complained that House Republican leadership punted their latest opportunity to combat Obama’s signature health care law — which they fought to defund during the October 2013 shutdown — and his executive overhaul of immigration and deportation rules.
“We’ve seen the same pattern … Now Obamacare is funded. Now Obama’s executive amnesty is funded,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said on Fox News. Alongside him, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, called the vote “disrespectful” to midterm voters.
Even if Republicans gain stability, Democrats are splintering.
Fresh off an election that purged the Democrats of many of their most centrist members, liberals — now more influential within their own ranks — have gone rogue, saying “no” to what the White House called a fair compromise, even though their bargaining position isn’t going to get better.
In an extraordinary scene Thursday afternoon, two of the party’s most influential members made high-profile breaks with Obama. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the government funding measure “blackmail” because of its inclusion of language rolling back a Wall Street reform that Democrats had fought hard to win in 2010.
Meanwhile, the party’s liberal hero, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, declared on the Senate floor that it is “time for all of us to stand up and fight.”
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were calling House Democrats, urging them to support the measure. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough rushed into a caucus meeting to make its case.
But Democrats insisted as they exited that meeting that McDonough hadn’t won many members over.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said Democrats need to draw a line now to signal that they won’t accept these kinds of deals in the future — when Republicans will control the Senate, too, and are certain to advance bills with more conservative priorities.
“If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said in the meeting.
Still, some influential lawmakers said the government funding measure was a chance at redemption.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, said Thursday night was an opportunity for Congress to break a pattern in which lawmakers have “paralyzed ourselves by making the perfect the enemy of the good.”
“We tried to govern on a bipartisan basis,” she said. “We reached across the aisle and we reached across the Capitol dome.”