MAGA forces had to be beaten back to keep government open
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, himself a Trump sycophant, is facing criticism from even more extreme hard right neo fascists in Congress unhappy that he has compromised in order to keep the government open. Johnson was one of the architects of the effort to keep Trump in power after he lost the election. | Yuri Gripas/AP

WASHINGTON—Congressional leaders agreed on February 28 on yet another short-term spending plan to keep the government open. They were able to temporarily maneuver around MAGAite House Republican Trumpites who still aim to shut the government down unless they get their way.

A shutdown that inflicts pain on the working class majority in the country is exactly what would please many of the criminals rampant among the corporate class, whose campaign cash funds the MAGAites. No money for federal agencies equals no enforcement of labor, tax, environmental and other laws the moguls hate.

No money also would please the MAGAite Republicans themselves. They see withholding money as leverage to force lawmakers and Democratic President Joe Biden to accept their ultimatums.

Their demands include defunding Planned Parenthood, eliminating teacher training, cutting education money for poor kids by 80%, freezing Pell Grants, yanking all federal cash for the battle against climate change and slashing 18% from OSHA and wage theft enforcement money and reducing the National Labor Relations Board’s funds by one-third.

None of those cuts, or any other “social issues,” are in the leaders’ agreement just signed. It is called a “continuing resolution,” to extend money for five federal departments at the levels of fiscal 2023, which ended last September 30, until March 8. The others would have their funds extended until March 22.

That latter group includes the military, and the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services, as well as the National Labor Relations Board, and related agencies.

Time to work details

The extra days allegedly give lawmakers time to work out details of real money bills for all the government agencies. Congress was scheduled to vote on the latest CR on February 29 and March 1.

The Senate’s ruling Democrats, as well as Democratic President Joe Biden, who engaged in a tense session on February 27 over the CR, reject all the social issue provisions demanded by the MAGAites.

The Freedom Caucus, the tail that wags the House GOP dog due to a slim majority there, hates CRs. Their corporate backers prefer to see a shutdown because it lets them run rampant.

Failing a complete closure, the Freedom Caucus would prefer a year-long CR, which would bring mandated spending cuts of 8%-10%, across the board, due to a prior law.

“Washington’s spending addiction has put us $34 trillion in debt,” tweeted Rep. Robert Good, R-Va., the ultra-rightist Freedom Caucus chair. “It’s sad that a full-year continuing resolution is the most realistic option to do anything positive for the American people, but at least it would save $100 billion versus the current ‘deal.’”

The leaders, notably right-wing House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., himself elected with support from fellow MAGAites, vowed to plow ahead. Agreeing on the first of the CRs, back in October, led the Freedom Caucus, which has about forty members, to oust Johnson’s predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., last year. McCarthy has since left Congress—vowing revenge.

“We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government,” said Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., in a joint statement.

“To give the House and Senate Appropriations Committees”—which actually help dole out federal funds—“adequate time to execute this deal in principle” by writing the money bills, congressional reports and getting a report on the budget impact.

And to give lawmakers three calendar days to review the money bills, “a short-term continuing resolution to fund agencies through March 8 and the 22nd will be necessary, and voted on by the House and Senate this week.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden’s press secretary, said in a statement that the CR deal “would help prevent a needless shutdown while providing more time to work on bipartisan appropriations bills and for the House to pass the bipartisan national security supplemental as quickly as possible.”

That too, came up in the tense talks earlier in the week. Indeed, most of the session was on that Biden demand for more military aid for the Ukraine and for Israel’s war on Gazans. Johnson has pigeonholed both requests. The Biden requests involved are themselves outrageous proposals for more war spending. Right wing Republicans are saying unless Biden and the Democrats agree to their draconian demands to virtually end legal migration to the U.S. they won’t agree to Biden’s demands for more war spending. It leaves progressive and peace forces between a rock and a hard place when it comes to this particular fight between Democrats and Republicans.

The House MAGAites’ god, former Republican Oval Office occupant Donald Trump, wants them to go even further against immigrants. Along with his white nationalist and nativist legions, Trump not only wants to ban all new migrants, but wants to evict the estimated 11 million undocumented people already in the U.S.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.