Today was supposed to be the day. The Republican-led House would pass a stopgap spending measure -- called a "continuing resolution," or "CR" -- that would fund the government until mid-December. At that point, the prospect of a pre-election shutdown would disappear and House members could focus almost exclusively on campaign activities for the next eight weeks.
But yesterday afternoon, plans changed
. The vote was delayed, in part because of President Obama's request for additional counter-terrorism resources, and in part because quite a few House Republicans oppose the Export-Import Bank, which is included in the spending bill.
The conservative activists who played a key role in sparking the government shutdown last fall are waging a similar battle this year, pushing House Republicans to threaten a standoff over a credit agency that a large majority of Americans haven't heard of or don't care about. The Club For Growth and Heritage Action each issued a "key vote" on Wednesday calling on lawmakers to vote against the House GOP's continuing resolution to keep the government open past Sept. 30. They took issue with the fact that the bill reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank through the end of June 2015 -- the activists want to shut it down. In other words, they're pushing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to threaten a government shutdown -- just one month before the midterm election -- unless Democrats agree to close down Ex-Im.
For a refresher on the fairly obscure Export-Import Bank, take a look at our coverage from June
. (For even more detail, Ezra's explainer
The result is a fairly significant test for the House Republican leadership team. Its first big test was a border bill, which failed in spectacular fashion
in July when new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his team couldn't convince their own Republican allies to support their own party's bill.
Will the second big test go any better? Much of the burden is on McCarthy, who finds himself in an awkward position.
McCarthy was a fairly enthusiastic supporter of the Export-Import Bank in the last Congress, before announcing he'd changed his mind
. Just as he was being elevated to replace Eric Cantor, the California Republican told Fox News he would let the Ex-Im Bank expire.
Simon Maloy explained
, however, that "the political ground shifted beneath McCarthy's feet," and now it looks like he "has to break his promise."
Coming into this September's abbreviated session, House congressional leaders formulated a strategy to prevent Ted Cruz and other conservative mischief-makers from shutting down the government or causing any sort of drawn-out fights over legislation that could cause political headaches for the GOP. This means passing a continuing resolution to fund the government and a temporary reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank's charter, and then heading back out on the campaign trail as soon as possible. Conservative activists, as one would expect, are not on board with this strategy.... And so McCarthy is stuck. He promised activists that he would let the bank die this month. But the leadership doesn't want to rock the boat before the elections. Boehner has already signaled that the bank will be reauthorized, likely by attaching an amendment to the continuing resolution. This means McCarthy will have to go back on his word.
Why anyone would want a leadership post among House Republicans is a mystery to me. Sure, there's more money and a nicer office, but trying to actually lead an unruly ground of radicalized lawmakers, who've been told repeatedly that compromise is never an acceptable option, is effectively impossible.