By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
As the Nov. 17 deadline for a government shutdown looms, Washington grapples with a confluence of domestic political divides and escalating global conflicts.
The recent appointment of far-right House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) follows a tumultuous three-week period during which Congress went without a speaker, underscoring the deep divisions within the Republican Party.
Johnson’s maiden legislative venture, a $14 billion bill aimed at fortifying Israel’s defense against Hamas, drew sharp criticism for its exclusion of aid to Ukraine and substantial cuts to IRS funding. The move, viewed as a desperate overture to the twice-impeached and now four-times indicted former President Donald Trump, underscores Johnson’s conservative agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) minced no words in his assessment of Johnson’s approach, emphasizing the bill’s lack of bipartisan support. “His first major legislative effort was not bipartisan at all,” Schumer stated. “And I think he’s going to learn the hard way that that doesn’t work.”
He further pointed out that he and the president shared reservations about the bill, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also did not endorse it.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) leveled serious concerns about Johnson’s ascendancy to the speaker’s chair, branding him “dangerous” due to his support for overturning the 2020 election results. Cheney, a vocal critic of Trump during her congressional tenure, argued that Johnson’s actions contradicted his professed commitment to upholding the Constitution. She remarked, “He was willing to set aside what he knew to be the rulings of the courts, the requirements of the Constitution, in order to placate Donald Trump.”
USA Today political writer Rex Huppke provided a scathing assessment of the situation, calling attention to the perceived lack of direction within House Republicans. “If you haven’t already passed out from the vacuous stupidity of all that, you might be wondering: ‘Hey, what are these House Republicans doing about the rapidly approaching Nov. 17 deadline to keep the government open?’” Huppke wrote.
He went on to paint a vivid picture of internal discord, referencing Trump’s legal troubles and characterizing the House Speaker as having a “disingenuous-youth-pastor vibe” even as he faces the challenges of avoiding a government shutdown right before the holidays.
In the Senate, a bipartisan effort led to the passage of three critical government funding bills covering areas such as military construction, veterans’ affairs, agriculture, transportation and housing. The decisive 82-15 vote aims to break the deadlock and provide a path to avert a potential shutdown.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, expressed hope that this progress will compel Congress to approve a short-term funding bill, affording the time needed to finalize a budget before year-end.
“There is definitely uncertainty with regard to how the House will respond to our strong bipartisan votes on appropriation bills,” Baldwin said. “But we hope that they will conclude – especially seeing the strong bipartisan votes – that the only way forward is through bipartisanship.”