Most people slept through it, but yes, the United States government shutdown for several hours last night.
Yesterday, in something of a throwback, the two parties struck a deal and came out with a bi-partisan spending bill. Great news, right?
But Republican and libertarian Rand Paul had to make a point: Republicans no longer care about deficit spending. Rand wanted the chance to introduce an amendment, and he used the procedural prerogatives of a senator to throw up roadblocks until about 1:30 a.m., when the time allotted for debate expired. That’s when the government shut down.
The House passed the bill just after 5:30 a.m. on a 240-186 vote, with 167 Republicans voting yes and 67 voting no. Democrats contributed 73 votes to get it across the finish line. President Trump was at the White House waiting to quickly sign it to reopen the government after what amounted to a partial seven-hour shutdown.
Rand Paul’s point was only a little off. I maintain that most Republicans NEVER cared about deficit spending — and if they did, it was only an excuse to cut off the social net (social security, etc.). You know how I can say that Republicans never cared about the deficit? Because deficits go up, often dramatically, under Republican governance and usually go down under Democrats. This isn’t an interpretation. It’s a simple fact. Nor is it an artifact of history or coincidence. It is because Republicans don’t care about deficits.
But this is the largest increase in federal spending since the stimulus passed during the depths of the Great Recession. Republicans almost universally opposed that bill in 2009, which cost $787 billion over 10 years, on the grounds that it would increase the debt too much. The only difference between now and then is that the economy is firing on all cylinders and doesn’t need stimulus.
GOP leaders are incensed at Paul, and members in both parties were perturbed that they had to burn the midnight oil. If he had fallen in line, they could have gone to bed at a reasonable hour. McConnell, who was visibly irritated when his fellow Kentuckian objected to his motion to end debate last night, might have remembered why he went all-in for Paul’s primary opponent back in 2010. John Cornyn, McConnell’s No. 2, called what Paul was doing “grossly irresponsible” and said that they wouldn’t give in to his demand for amendments: “Why reward bad behavior?” John Thune, the No. 3 in GOP leadership, called it “a colossal waste of everybody’s time” and said Paul “never gets a result.”
But annoying the GOP was all that Rand Paul could hope to do. That’s why he did it.