Kevin McCarthy, Tsai Ing-wen
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy`. Photo credit: 總統府 / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Many Republican members of Congress are actively working against the federal government and are more interested in performing for their radical base than legislating, so it’s no surprise that we are once again on the precipice of a shutdown.

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In the last 30 years, Republicans were in control of the House of Representatives every single time the US government was shut down. All but once, they also held the Senate.

There are different reasons for that. A big one is that GOP lawmakers only seem to remember that they are “fiscal conservatives” when a Democrat is in the White House, not when they are spending money like drunken sailors when it’s a Republican.

More importantly, they no longer come to Washington, DC, to govern; they come to sabotage the government. That started with the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, which resulted in not one but two shutdowns in 1995.

The current group of Republicans, however, is even more extreme. Many of them are openly sympathetic to the people who sacked Congress on January 6, which makes sense because that is essentially what they themselves are doing every day.

These GOP lawmakers have no interest in doing the job that members of Congress have traditionally performed (it would be wrong, however, to say that they are not doing what they were elected to do because, in heavily gerrymandered districts, many of them were voted into office precisely to disrupt the work of Congress).

And, because many of them are actively working against the federal government and are more interested in performing for their radical base than legislating, it’s no surprise that we are once again on the precipice of a shutdown.

But this one is different in one key aspect.

Usually, the different sides in these fights over government funding are trying to blame each other for a lack of an agreement.

Why won’t the Democratic president agree to some spending cuts when the deficit is out of control? Why do Republican lawmakers insist on holding the government hostage over cuts they only seem to be interested in when a Democrat is in the White House?

Ultimately, each side believes that it can “win” these showdowns, which are not very popular among Americans. Usually, that means trying to make sure the other side ends up getting the blame.

As a rule of thumb, this hasn’t worked out well for Republicans. To understand why, let’s turn it over to GOP strategist Karl Rove.

When he was asked on Fox News why that is, Rove deadpanned: “Well, generally because Republicans are responsible for these shutdowns.”

Still, in previous years, GOP lawmakers were able to at least spin things to make it appear as though Democrats were either fully or partially culpable for actual or looming shutdowns.

But not this year.

This time around, it is quite clear who will be solely responsible: House Republicans.

They even admit it themselves.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who bears a great deal of responsibility for emboldening the large radical wing of his party, acknowledged on Thursday that some members of his caucus “just want to burn the whole place down.”

Unfortunately, that insight does not also come with introspection. If it did, then maybe McCarthy would realize that his job, and that of his fellow House Republicans, is not to spend all their time investigating a private citizen, defending Donald Trump, or making unsubstantiated allegations against President Joe Biden on TV.

That’s why much of that finger-pointing among GOP lawmakers seems a little bit silly.

“It’s a breach of our duty right now. We’re supposed to be leading and governing,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR). “We’ve got a handful of people that are holding the majority of our conference kind of held hostage and in turn, holding up America.”

That’s right, House Republicans are supposed to be leading and governing, but they are doing neither.

And when Americans start feeling the pain that inevitably accompanies a government shutdown, maybe they will start paying attention and realize that it doesn’t make sense to elect a bunch of performance artists who have no interest in doing their jobs. 


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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