With a government shutdown looming, Nancy Pelosi and Michele Bachmann are on the same side. And the other team includes Barack Obama and John Boehner. So how did such strange alliances get formed?
The “cromnibus”, the budget bill that would avoid a shutdown and keep the government open until next October, has become bogged in controversy as conservative Republicans and many Democrats have joined together in opposition. But, unsurprisingly, they have very different issues with the bill.
Democrats are up in arms about several policy riders attached to the cromnibus. In particular, a provision that would amend the Dodd-Frank financial reform act by weakening on restrictions on big banks trading derivatives. The result has led influential Democrats like Elizabeth Warren to go to the barricades in opposition to the bill and helped push Pelosi and other members of the House Democratic caucus to try and sink the legislation, which was developed in bipartisan negotiations between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.
And attempt to roll back Dodd-Frank isn’t the only provision that has upset Pelosi. The House Minority Leader also expressed her displeasure with a provision in the bill that would allow donors to give up to $1.5 million to political party committees in an election cycle. But the real animus seems directed towards the language changing Dodd-Frank.
In contrast, Republicans are worked up on immigration, particularly the President’s executive order on immigration from earlier this year that would allow up to five million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States indefinitely. A number of Republicans are refusing to support any legislation that would fund this executive order, which they claim is an unconstitutional amnesty.
Two of the most conservative Republicans in the House, Michele Bachmann and Steve King, told reporters that they have a clean 60-day continuing resolution to keep the government open, only with an amendment which would prohibit any funding for the President’s executive order. They then would expect the Senate to strip that amendment and compromise simply on keeping government open for 60 days.
In their opinion, this would allow conservatives to lay a marker down on immigration while avoiding a shutdown for the time being. Instead, it would set the stage for a massive showdown in February, when Republicans would control both the House and the Senate. Then, conservatives hope that they can finally defund the President’s executive order on immigration.
For the meantime, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path for the cromnibus as written to make it through the House to the Senate (where it is expected to pass.) The House Republican leadership could barely win a procedural vote earlier Thursday afternoon.
The problem for Republicans is that up to 70 members of their caucus will vote against the bill, and there are nowhere near enough Democrats willing to support the legislation—-even though top administration officials like Joe Biden are lobbying for it. At this point, every option is on the table, and a congressional source told The Daily Beast that the GOP leadership is even contemplating a more conservative cromnibus in an attempt to win back wavering members while still avoiding a short-term deal.
Regardless of how the showdown ends, it does serve a very clear signal of what the political climate will be in the next Congress. By bringing government to the brink of a shutdown over financial reform, progressives have shown their firepower on the issue—just as Tea Partiers in the past have forced debate on immigration reform and Obamacare. The provisions weakening Dodd-Frank may still become law and the cromnibus may still pass. But progressives have made clear that the next time Democrats make concessions to GOP to forge compromise, it’ll save a lot of frustration if the deal doesn’t alter Dodd-Frank.