Congress averted a government shutdown this weekend, agreeing to 45 days of funding to give members time to pass appropriations bills for the full year. Incredibly, Democrats seemed prepared to shut down the government over their desire for increases in Ukraine war funding. Republicans, by contrast, bucked Senate leader Mitch McConnell to keep the government open without such funding.
While shutdown battles have become common, this one had absurd moments. Democrats tried to delay votes with everything from “magic minutes,” which allow party leaders to speak at length, to Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulling a fire alarm in the middle of a vote, forcing the evacuation of a House office building.
With hundreds of Jan. 6 protesters facing excessive sentences, which Department of Justice prosecutors say is because they attempted to delay or obstruct an official congressional proceeding, some Americans began demanding the elected member of Congress be held to the same excruciating standard. Bowman, a former school principal, later claimed he didn’t understand how fire alarms work.
Even after the House passed the bill, Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado further delayed the eventual passage by placing a hold on the bill. The procedural delays were partly a result of efforts to force a shutdown that could be blamed on Republicans. Conventional wisdom in Washington is that Republicans get blamed for government shutdowns regardless of who is responsible.
Democrats Willing to Shut Down over Ukraine
However, Democrats’ delays were also about a demand for additional Ukraine funding. Some Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also want U.S. taxpayers to finance even more of the war against Russia, which has descended into an expensive quagmire.
“Despite nine months of bloody fighting, less than 500 square miles of territory have changed hands since the start of the year. A prolonged stalemate could weaken Western support for Ukraine,” reported The New York Times last week.
That’s exactly what has happened. Congress has approved around $113 billion in four rounds of funding. Many polls show significantly weakening support for additional funding. In fact, some 55 percent of Americans oppose additional funding, according to a poll from the left-wing media outlet CNN. That percentage goes up to 71 percent for Republicans. Additional funding for Ukraine is supported by 62 percent of Democrats, according to the poll. Incidentally, CNN joined other corporate media in suppressing discussion of these numbers during the weekend shutdown battle, which hinged on Ukraine funding.
“The press never even mentions that Ukraine war funding has become incredibly unpopular with actual Republican voters and an increasing number of independents,” one social media analyst noted. “It’s always framed on every network like some fringe position when it’s actually the majority of Americans.”
Democrats are enthusiastically adopting the Bush-era foreign policy of supporting lengthy U.S.-led wars with a tenuous or even deleterious effect on national security. These wars tend to have very little strategy other than avoiding quick resolution. Such long wars enable years or even decades of financing of the defense industry, which some Ukraine war supporters point to as a benefit for Americans. Democrats are even adopting the Bush-era claim that such wars need to be fought to advance “democracy.”
Partisan Divide On The Issue Rears Head
On Friday night, the lack of additional funding for Ukraine caused Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., to object to Sen. Ron Johnson’s, R-Wis., request on the Senate floor to pass a clean two-week funding extension.
“The Dems are about to shut down the government over Ukraine. I actually can’t believe it, but here we are,” Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, said in a social media post.
The Senate then pushed a bill that would give an additional $6 billion to fund the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy dismissed it out of hand and said the House would propose something instead. A few days prior, House Republicans were able to strip $300 million in Ukraine funding from a bill that was being debated.
Back in the Senate, McConnell failed to get fellow Republicans to sign onto his plan to force Ukraine funding instead of allowing House Republicans to work on a funding bill without it. Punchbowl’s John Bresnahan and Andrew Desiderio had perhaps the most intriguing reporting of the weekend with this vignette:
Senate sources said it was the first time they could remember that Republican senators didn’t seem to fear repercussions for disagreeing with McConnell, particularly on a prominent issue on which he’d staked out a clear position. It was unclear whether senators overruled McConnell because his mental and physical weakness has left him vulnerable or simply because they recognize how strongly Republican voters feel about funding an expensive war without a clear strategy for success.
House Democrats dug in, passing around a one-page sheet lambasting McCarthy for his continuing resolution, almost all of which focused on Democrats’ desire for U.S. taxpayers to finance the Ukraine war.
The Senate prepared to hotline, or fast track, their vote on the House bill that did not include war funding. That’s when Bennett held it up over the Ukraine issue.
The pressure for funding could not have been more intense. “Senior administration officials” pressured McConnell, saying that Ukraine could not be sustained without funding in this weekend’s bill.
“It’s rumored that Pentagon officials are on their way over to the Capitol to lobby for Schumer-McConnell. The Military Industrial Complex™️ doesn’t like to lose,” wrote Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Saturday.
Russia-collusion hoaxer Michael McFaul trotted out the same type of argument that has been used to bully Americans to stay in drawn-out wars for decades. “If the US pulls back on our support from Ukraine now, we radically diminish our credibility to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan,” he said.
Ukraine War Enthusiasts Pressure McCarthy
The Ukraine war enthusiasts only allowed the stopgap funding measure to proceed on the grounds they’d soon get a vote on whether to send another major aid package to Ukraine.
“We will not stop fighting for more economic and security assistance for Ukraine,” Schumer said.
“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment,” President Biden said in his announcement on the funding measure. He said he’d made a deal with McCarthy to vote on additional funding.
House Democrats said, “When the House returns, we expect Speaker McCarthy to advance a bill to the House Floor for an up-or-down vote that supports Ukraine, consistent with his commitment to making sure that Vladimir Putin, Russia and authoritarianism are defeated. We must stand with the Ukrainian people until victory is won.”
Nearly every Democrat and a fair number of Republicans want to continue funding the Ukraine war, despite the results of previous rounds of funding. They’ll likely succeed, but the vote will be harder.
Conservative Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will be on guard. “When I said I’d do everything I could to stop the US government from being held hostage to Ukraine, I meant it. We cannot continue to put the needs of other countries above our own. We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy. I’m grateful to all Members of Congress who stood with me, but the battle to fund our government isn’t over yet — the forever-war crowd will return,” he wrote.