Rand Paul's Five-Hour Shutdown Is Over. Here Are The Good Things That Will Actually Get Funded!
He likes wrecking stuff
Senator Rand Paul, the hero of pointless grandstanding, managed to grandstand the entire US government into a brief shutdown after the midnight deadline for funding the government came and went without Congress being able to pass a spending package that will fund the government for two years. Paul gave an impassioned speech about Republicans' hypocrisy on debt, which is certainly true enough; they all agree that deficits are terrible when a Democrat is president, and don't matter under Republicans because their party is all about fiscal responsibility, you see:
“I ran for office because I was very critical of [Barack] Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits. Now we have Republicans hand-in-hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits,” Paul said during a floor speech, as he predicted that “a day of reckoning” is coming. “I can’t in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits.”
Under Senate rules (which we're increasingly certain just get made up on the spot), Paul was able to delay the vote by offering an amendment that would have kept budget caps on military and domestic spending in place, essentially gutting the budget deal. Once he demanded a vote on it, and Senate leadership refused, since that would open up the bill to more amendments, everyone just sat around for a few hours doing nothing until the time expired on Paul's little stunt. Has the phrase "the world's greatest deliberative body" ever been used unironically?
It wasn't exactly a filibuster, since the time was, thankfully, limited, but Paul did speak for an hour, which made all his colleagues just love him all the more:
Republican Senator John Cornyn called the move “irresponsible,” while Democratic Senator Brian Schatz noted that Paul wasn’t that concerned about fiscal discipline a few weeks ago.
Paul was really big on the principle of the whole thing, though:
“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?’”
Not surprisingly, no Republicans rose to answer that particular question, possibly because they'd gone back to their offices to nap. By 11 p.m., it was clear nothing else was doing, so the Senate recessed until a minute after midnight. As New York magazine notes, "Senator Ted Cruz, who knows a thing or two about shutdowns, happened to be presiding over the chamber at the time."
Once the Senate reconvened an hour later, they ran out the remaining time on Paul's delaying tactic, then a bit after 1 a.m. voted to pass the spending bill, 71 to 28. (Despite popular sentiment, there was no subsequent vote to give Rand Paul an Aqua Buddha swirly.) Then it was the House's turn to vote, where the measure passed, 240 to 186, around 5:30 a.m. Donald Trump signed the bill this morning, and commemorated the occasion with a tweet, of course.
In the House, the Republicans didn't have enough votes to pass the bill alone, since a crowd of Freedom Caulkers opposed anything that isn't military spending, so in order for it to pass, it needed some Democrats to vote for it. Despite Nancy Pelosi's eight-hour speech Tuesday and many calls for Democrats to vote no if the bill didn't include a fix for DACA, 73 Democrats ultimately voted for the spending plan; 119 voted against it. Several of the Dems who voted for the bill said that while they want to vote to protect Dreamers, they believed a government shutdown over the issue would have been counterproductive. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly said shutting down the government could actually backfire:
“I believe harm would have flowed toward dreamers had the government shut down,” he said. “What we saw last time was that public support actually fell. And it’s an awfully hard intellectual contortion to argue against a bill where we won pretty much every battle.”
And yes, the spending plan really does contain stuff Democrats want. In exchange for agreeing to the Republican demand for increased military spending so we can have an even more bloated war machine, domestic spending increased by about 10 percent above current levels, with a commitment to fund the National Institutes on Health and increase spending on the opioid crisis, as well as for making college more affordable, providing daycare, and spending on infrastructure.
Community health centers, which had run out of funding last fall at the same time as CHIP, will be funded for two years, preserving the primary source of healthcare for 26.5 million Americans. CHIP funding, already extended six years as part of the last temporary budget bill, will be extended an additional four years, keeping CHIP safe for a full decade. No, we don't want to think about what Republicans will be like in 10 years. In addition, the bill lifts caps that would have been triggered for Medicare and Medicaid due to the GOP's insane tax cuts for rich fuckwads, preventing steep spending cuts.
The bill also will provide $90 billion in hurricane recovery aid -- finally -- for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Florida, and Puerto Rico; $16 billion of the aid is targeted at Puerto Rico, where many areas still lack electricity and clean municipal water systems. That's far less than the $94 billion Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has said will be necessary for full recovery. But it's better than what Congress has managed so far.
Oh, yes, and there's also the matter of really keeping the government open more than a few weeks at a time. Surprise! This bill is a two-year spending plan, but it only appropriates funds to keep the government running until March 23. Now that there's an actual agreement on what government will spend for two years, Congress has to actually pass actual appropriations to fund those commitments by next month. Surely they'll get that done, huh?
Now it's time to pass a DACA bill. No more excuses, no more delays. If Rand Paul gets in the way, deport him to the Moon.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.