To a degree unseen in recent memory, Congress’ top two Republicans have been reading from different scripts over the last year or so — though one of the two keeps coming out on top.
For example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy balked at the bipartisan infrastructure package. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supported it and it passed. McCarthy opposed the biggest gun reform bill in three decades; McConnell supported it and it passed, too. In September, facing a government-shutdown deadline, McCarthy rejected a stopgap bill. McConnell did the opposite — and like the other bills, it also passed.
This week, the top GOP leaders again found themselves at odds, this time over a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package that would, among other things, fund government operations through the end of the fiscal year while amending the Electoral Count Act to prevent future coup attempts. McCarthy fought to kill the bill, while McConnell endorsed it. Take a wild guess who won again. NBC News reported:
The Senate voted Thursday to pass a $1.7 trillion government funding bill, sending it to the House to avoid a holiday shutdown. The vote was 68-29.
In all, 18 Senate Republicans, including McConnell, voted with the Democratic majority to advance to the measure. It’s expected to clear the House today and receive President Joe Biden’s signature soon after.
It’s worth emphasizing the scope of McCarthy’s opposition. The incumbent minority leader, struggling to get the intra-party support he needs to become House speaker, and eager to give the appearance of being a strong leader, actually crossed the Capitol this week to make his case to GOP senators directly. McCarthy pleaded with Senate Republicans to kill the bill and give him leverage to threaten shutdowns early next year.
McCarthy also, incidentally, threatened GOP senators who supported the spending package, saying the new, Republican-led House would reject their proposals in the next Congress unless they voted against this bill.
It’s certainly possible that rank-and-file House Republicans, many of whom are skeptical of McCarthy as he tries to claim the speaker’s gavel, will be pleased that he at least tried to derail the legislation they oppose.
But there’s no escaping the bottom line: At a difficult time for McCarthy, the House GOP leader didn’t need yet another defeat. Senate Republicans handed him one anyway.