It was a surprising twist that came late Saturday.
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
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Can we fix elections?
On Friday, we released a subscribers-only transcript of my interview with Nick Troiano. Last night, we dropped the YouTube version:
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 90-year-old California Democrat and longest-serving female senator in U.S. history, died on Friday. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) named Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY's List, to fill the seat. (The appointment)
- Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) is facing a potential ethics probe after being caught on camera pulling a fire alarm while Democrats were attempting to delay a vote to avoid a government shutdown. Bowman claimed he was attempting to open a door. (The incident)
- Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) announced he will be stepping down from his role in House Democratic leadership, saying his ambition to potentially challenge Biden in the 2024 presidential race is incongruent with the majority of his caucus. (The decision)
- Federal student loan repayments restarted Sunday after a three-year pause. (The repayments)
- Former President Trump will appear in a Manhattan courtroom today for the beginning of a civil fraud trial. He is being charged with inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to obtain favorable terms on bank loans and insurance policies. (The trial)
The non-shutdown. In a dramatic few hours on Saturday, Congress avoided a government shutdown as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) passed a stopgap funding measure with the support of moderate Republicans and all but one House Democrat. The bill passed 335-91 in the House, with about half of Republicans voting against it. It then passed the Senate 88-9 hours later. President Biden signed the measure late Saturday night with just hours to spare.
For an explanation of how government shutdowns work and the major tension on this showdown, read our coverage from September 21.
McCarthy's decision to help pass the bill was a shock to many in Washington, D.C., and enraged conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who have vowed to bring up a vote to remove him as Speaker this week. The continuing resolution (CR), or stopgap funding measure, keeps the government funded for the next 45 days at fiscal year 2023 levels. It also includes $16 billion for disaster relief and reauthorizes the FAA and national flood insurance programs through the end of the year. However, the bill did not include any new funding for Ukraine, a priority for Democrats, or any border security legislation, a priority for Republicans.
The lone Democrat to vote against the bill in the House was Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley (IL), the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, who said passing the bill without Ukraine funding was a victory for Putin.
Now, a group of House Republicans led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is expected to try to oust McCarthy from his speakership, and Democrats will have to decide whether to protect him with their votes. Meanwhile, McCarthy has pledged to bring forward a bill that would pair Ukraine funding with a border security provision.
For the last several weeks, McCarthy had promised that Republicans wouldn't pass a government funding bill like the one passed Saturday, which didn't include big spending cuts or new provisions to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. McCarthy defended himself from attacks on the decision.
"If someone wants to make a motion against me, bring it," McCarthy said after the bill passed. "There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what is the best for this country... I’m going to be a conservative that gets things done for the American public, and whatever that holds, so be it."
In another interesting twist, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was overruled by his Senate colleagues this weekend. McConnell wanted to pass a CR that included $6 billion in funding for Ukraine, but announced to reporters that Senate Republicans would not support Democrats in passing a CR with Ukraine funding, which ultimately helped lead to the CR to keep the government open for 45 days.
Today, we're going to share some opinions from the right and left on the surprise bill, and then my take.
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There are voices on both sides who believe McCarthy made the right call to put up a bill that would garner Democrat votes. Most on the left wanted the government kept open, while many conservative commentators believed a government shutdown would not be advantageous politically.
What the right is saying.
- The right is ambivalent about the bill, with many critical of the far-right GOP members who forced McCarthy to make a deal they may now try to oust him over.
- Some think the dynamics of how the episode played out are more consequential than the bill itself.
- Others question the narrative that Democrats got what they wanted in the end.
In National Review, Yuval Levin explained why the continuing resolution to keep the government funded “changed more than you think.”
“The bill itself is largely a wash: It doesn’t change much about what our government does or how much it spends, and neither party won much or lost much through its passage… but the way it happened was extremely consequential, and it tells us at least three important things. First, it signals a new phase of the McCarthy speakership. Until Saturday, Kevin McCarthy had managed to mostly keep his conference’s various factions together by avoiding any real governing choices,” Levin wrote. “Over the past week or so, McCarthy put [House Freedom Caucus] members in a position that revealed that they had no intention of ever voting for spending bills that could also pass the Senate. His goal was always to make it clear to the rest of the conference that there was no way forward except a legislative vehicle that could get some Democratic votes.
“Second, the CR also signals a new phase for Senate Republicans… Mitch McConnell has generally led Senate Republicans by avoiding taking strong substantive positions himself and instead facilitating consensus, focusing on process, and protecting Republican senators from hard votes. But in this appropriations process, McConnell staked out a firm substantive position regarding funding for American aid to Ukraine,” Levin said. “Third and finally, Saturday’s extraordinary turn of events puts Ukraine funding at the heart of the continuing struggle over appropriations… American support for Ukraine has suffered a substantial setback in this process. On that front, too, things will not be the same after Saturday.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial board said any effort to oust McCarthy as House Speaker because of the bill “would empower Democrats.”
“Kevin McCarthy chose the only option he had on Saturday to avoid a pointless government shutdown by seeking a bipartisan vote. He succeeded, but now the GOP Jacobins who blocked a Republican-only bill are plotting to oust Mr. McCarthy as House Speaker as soon as this week. Mr. McCarthy had worked until the day before a shutdown deadline to pass a 45-day funding bill that included a spending reduction, money for border security, and a commission on the growing federal debt. It wouldn’t have passed the Senate, but it would at least have given the House leverage in conference. The GOP’s rejectionists defeated everything. That left Mr. McCarthy no choice but to seek Democratic votes for a funding bill that included no GOP priorities.”
In response to the deal, “Rep. Matt Gaetz vowed to introduce a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair… The question for the Jacobins is what’s the plan if they oust Mr. McCarthy,” the board asked. “Mr. Gaetz scores Mr. McCarthy for relying on Democrats for the funding bill, but Mr. Gaetz is counting on nearly all Democrats to join him to oust Mr. McCarthy. Democrats could decide to provide some votes to save the Speaker, but they may prefer to see the GOP conference in chaos,” the board said. “The Republicans who want to topple Mr. McCarthy are motivated by personal animus that has nothing to do with the public good.”
In PJ Media, Matt Margolis asked “was the stopgap funding bill really a victory for Democrats?”
House Democrats are framing the outcome as a win for their party, but “is that really what happened, or are Democrats projecting? Make no mistake about it: Democrats want people to believe that it was a victory for them, and the media is certainly doing its part to push that narrative. But Democrats didn’t get what they really wanted: a shutdown. It seems that Jefferies and other Democrat leaders want us to forget that they literally made multiple attempts to delay the vote on the stopgap resolution in the hopes of not meeting the deadline for funding the government, thereby forcing a shutdown,” Margolis wrote.
“Democrats claiming they wanted to review the stopgap resolution was also a laughable excuse. House members aren’t exactly known for reading bills before they are passed. In fact, history has shown that Democrats are all for passing a bill first in order to find out what’s in, as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about Obamacare back in the day,” Margolis said. “Democrats want a shutdown. History has shown that Democrats will blame every shutdown on the Republicans, and when a Democrat is in the Oval Office, that president will use their power to make the shutdown as painful as possible to maximize the political fallout. Clinton did it. Obama did it. You can bet that Joe Biden will do it, too, if he gets the opportunity.”
What the left is saying.
- The left is relieved that a shutdown was avoided but concerned that the far-right wing of the House GOP will continue to wield outsized influence over the government.
- Some give McCarthy credit for risking his job to make a deal and temporarily avert a crisis.
- Others say that despite the outcome, the entire episode is a model of how not to govern.
In the New York Times, David Firestone said McCarthy “deserves some credit for putting his job on the line” to avoid a shutdown.
“Mr. McCarthy may finally do the country a service by proving that bipartisanship works, effectively shutting up the braying band of right-wing extremists who have been agents of chaos since the moment the current House took office in January,” Firestone wrote. “Did he do it for pragmatic reasons, knowing that a shutdown would be blamed on Republicans and could hurt their chances of holding on to the House in 2024?... Or did he do it because in some deep place in his heart — a place most despised by the hard-liners — he actually didn’t want a shutdown?”
“The question now is whether Mr. McCarthy’s actions will cost him his job. Will the hard-liners follow Mr. Gaetz and vote to remove him?” Firestone asked. Alternatively, “will a few Democrats step in to save him? Mr. McCarthy is profoundly untrustworthy, having repeatedly broken various promises to both parties.” Despite being “fully behind the House’s laughable effort to impeach Mr. Biden… he did keep the government open, at least for a few more weeks, and he told Mr. Gaetz and his band where they could go. At a moment like this, that may be enough to let him keep his job.”
In the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote “the GOP’s arsonists lost on the shutdown, but they’re not going away.”
“The Republican leader clearly understood that blame for the fiasco would have fallen on him, given the failure of his earlier strategy rooted in coddling the Trumpists in his caucus. So he finally did what Democrats had long been urging him to do: He abandoned his Republicans-only approach involving sweeping budget cuts that were still not sufficient for his most radical colleagues,” Dionne Jr. said. “One of Winston Churchill’s most cited observations is that Americans always do the right thing after exhausting all of the other possibilities. McCarthy doesn’t always do the right thing, but he did so in this case — after he tried almost everything else.”
However, at a news conference about the spending agreement, McCarthy “took a partisan line, assailing Biden and making a point of welcoming members who had opposed him back into the fold. None of which bodes well for the next 45 days, and not just because some way must be found to finance aid to Ukraine, left out of the resolution. Democrats remain angry that McCarthy broke the deal he reached with Biden earlier this year during debt ceiling negotiations. That deal, too, was passed with more Democratic than Republican votes.” McCarthy said “he’d gladly face a challenge if that were the cost of being ‘the adult in the room.’” That challenge could be on the way, and “rescuing McCarthy will be a reach for many Democrats.”
In Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz said Congress averted a crisis, but its approach is “still no way to govern.”
“McCarthy’s rejection of his far-right members caught everyone off-guard and left Democrats flat-footed (so much so that one Dem member pulled a fire alarm to try to buy more time for them to review the new CR before it came to a rushed vote),” Kurtz wrote. “This continues to be a maddening and indefensible way of governing. Damage has already been done to government departments and agencies forced to prepare for a shutdown, costing enormous time, resources, and money. Government workers have been needlessly traumatized by the prospect of extended furloughs. Time that could have been spent actually negotiating longer-term agreements on funding and policy has been wasted with legislative hostage-taking.”
“As for McCarthy, who knows what finally tipped the scale for him to rebuff his right flank. It should be noted that there was nothing on the horizon that suggested a shift in the power dynamics that would break the fever of the House Freedom Caucus. So once House Republicans sent us over the cliff into a shutdown, it wasn’t obvious how it would ever get resolved. There was no plan. Perhaps McCarthy saw that, too,” Kurtz added. “Needless drama, posturing in place of governing, doing damage to institutions and norms for the sake of it. It’s old hat for Republicans now. It’s been tiresome for the rest of us for a long time.”
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- This was genuinely shocking.
- McCarthy was right to keep the government open, especially given Gaetz and his supporters didn’t have a clear plan.
- What comes next will be perhaps the most interesting part of this showdown.
It's pretty rare that I'm surprised by an outcome in politics anymore, but this was genuinely shocking to me.
Up until Saturday afternoon, there were very few signs pointing to any outcome besides a government shutdown. And I said as much in the Tangle newsletter and in interviews I did last week. McCarthy had said (over and over) that he would not pass any government funding bill if it didn't include spending cuts and border security. Yet he did just that, unapologetically, with the help of Democrats, and in the final moments before a shutdown.
To be frank, I think it was the right move. McCarthy's detractors in the right flank of the Republican party are using their power about as fully as they can, but at some point shutting down the government over the demands of 10 to 15 representatives — in a government body that consists of 435 members in the House and 100 more in the Senate — is self-evidently stupid.
As I've said over and over, I am supportive of less centralized power in Congressional leadership. Kudos to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his crew for how far they’ve gotten, but at a certain point his caucus starts getting in its own way. McCarthy always had the votes to keep the government open, and given the intractability of his right flank — and the fact they themselves don't even agree on exactly what they want — a protracted shutdown was a loser in every way imaginable. Politically, economically, operationally… for Americans generally, and for McCarthy personally.
I also wrote that if all this ended in some more bipartisanship in Congress, I'd be happy. I don't say that because of some wholesale position that members of Congress voting in unison is a sign of legislation we should trust (sometimes, the reverse is true). I'm just glad that Republicans and Democrats in the House can work together, which has seemed increasingly rare over the past decade. And I'm glad to see that Congress isn’t incapable of functioning when only 10 to 15 members decide they want to grind things to a halt.
What comes next will be the most interesting part. While the media narrative has been uniform in this being a win for Democrats, I'm not so sure. First, Republicans will try to remove McCarthy, and Democrats are going to have to decide whether to save him or not. If Democrats decide to sit out and let Republicans fight, they'll win a short-term battle politically but could end up with a Speaker much less open to helping them. McCarthy and House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) reportedly have a very strong relationship.
If they help keep his speakership alive, that will put them in a bind, too. Remember: McCarthy has reneged on the spending deal he cut with Biden, launched an impeachment inquiry into the Democratic president, and spent Sunday blaming the potential shutdown on Democrats even after they helped him avoid it. McCarthy hasn’t exactly been someone they can trust.
Then there are the future spending conundrums. This stopgap funding bill did not include more Ukraine funding, nor did it include anything to address the current border crisis. That means both of those things will be voted on more specifically — perhaps even together. Given Americans’ increasing skepticism of backing Ukraine and the genuine concern over the migrant crisis, Democrats could face some tough votes on where to put American resources that end up being political losers for them.
I'm not sure how McCarthy's future or those spending votes will play out, but I'm certainly hesitant to frame this as a win for the left. For now, McCarthy survives and the government stays open. But the immediate impact is that Democrats will face two tough votes politically, and the 45-day clock for another potential shutdown is now ticking. The future is just as uncertain as it was heading into last weekend.
Your questions, answered.
Q: I'm a new member and like Tangle so far. Curious, who beside you is providing the Tangle's take on the issues raised? It seems you doing this solo provides just one person's point of view, literally. What if you were indisposed for a period? Who would put out Tangle?
— Alfred from Port Jefferson Station, New York
Tangle: Good question! This is actually a conversation we are having internally at Tangle now as our team continues to grow and our platform becomes bigger. When I first started Tangle, it was (literally) just me sending an email every day. So I'd write the introduction to a story, summaries of the left and right, and then "my take" by myself.
Now, there are a half dozen people who work on the newsletter each morning. I don't just get help with the editing process, but some folks on my staff make first drafts of certain sections. Of course, "my take" is still my take, but my colleagues help me shape and refine it. Tangle’s editors don't just proofread the things I write, but also challenge my positions and thinking. That's one of my favorite parts of our process.
As you said, the fact that so much is centered around me personally can create some issues. On the one hand, I think the personal nature of Tangle is part of why it is so appealing, so I doubt that will ever change. I like being transparent and open about my worldview, and I like giving myself some space to share my thoughts in each newsletter. On the other hand, if I'm sick, traveling, or otherwise indisposed, it puts the team in a tough spot.
One idea we have for the future is changing "My take" to "Our take," which would be a more collective position. Or perhaps just offering a "Staff's take" at times when I am unavailable. I think that'd be an interesting twist on what we are doing, but we haven't really moved that idea forward yet.
All that's to say: I don't have a great answer for you, but it's something we are aware of and an eventuality we're preparing for!
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Under the radar.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law last week that will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers next year to $20 per hour. California fast food workers will now have the highest guaranteed base salary in their industry, which will be almost 30% higher than the state's minimum wage for all other workers of $15.50 — a statewide minimum that already is among the highest in the United States. Currently, the state’s fast food workers earn an average of $16.60 per hour, or about $34,000 per year. In signing the bill, Newsom dismissed the idea that fast food jobs were meant for teenagers or entry level workers, noting that many fast food workers are supporting families. The bill was the product of hundreds of hours of negotiations between fast food corporations and labor unions. The Associated Press has the story.
- 209. The number of Democrats who voted for the stopgap funding bill in the House.
- 126. The number of Republicans who voted for the stopgap funding bill in the House.
- 90. The number of Republicans who voted against the stopgap funding bill in the House.
- One. The number of Democrats who voted against the stopgap funding bill in the House.
- Three. The number of hours remaining before a government shutdown when the Senate passed the bill on Saturday night.
- 4 million. The number of service members and federal workers whose paychecks would have been halted if the government had shut down.
- One year ago today we didn't have a newsletter, but we had just published a big update on Tangle for our subscribers.
- The most clicked link in Thursday's newsletter was Vivek Ramaswamy's quote of the night from Wednesday.
- Why bother: 408 Tangle readers, a new record low, responded to our poll asking who won the second Republican debate with 57% saying Nikki Haley. 30% said Ron DeSantis, 8% said Chris Christie, 3% said Vivek Ramaswamy, and 1% said Doug Burgum. Two votes were cast for Tim Scott, and one for Mike Pence. "Why are they even bothering?" asked one respondent.
- Nothing to do with politics: Photos from the first concert at The Sphere in Las Vegas.
- Take the poll. What do you think of the latest bill to avert a government shutdown? Let us know!
Have a nice day.
Earlier this year, Ruben Flowers stumbled across an old picture in his grandmother’s house: A snapshot from 1994 showing him, as a toddler, sitting next to his pilot dad in an airplane flight deck. Flowers had forgotten the photo existed, but he was flooded with memories upon seeing it again. And he decided to try to recreate the moment. Now 30, he was just about to begin flying as a First Officer for Southwest Airlines while his father — also Ruben Flowers — was nearing retirement with Southwest. They recreated the photo in March, as the elder Flowers flew his final Southwest flight, with his son by his side as first officer. “That was an awesome feeling,” said the older Flowers. “To look over there and see my son, next to me, for my last landing.” CNN Travel has the story (and the photos).
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