Yes, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has been in frequent contact with McCarthy (not negotiations, just contact). Yes, Jeffries is meeting today with the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is trying to assemble a bipartisan deal to keep the government open.
But those moves are more about ending a shutdown than avoiding one, the Democrats said. There’s been no meaningful work toward a solution.
“If [McCarthy] has to let some blood out and shut the government down, OK. But we all know that ultimately what’s going to happen is going to be some sort of bipartisan deal here,” one Democratic member told us.
Democrats are now strategizing about what that deal ultimately looks like, and they’ve agreed on one thing: It’s going to look a lot like what Republicans already agreed to.
As Jennifer Haberkorn and Adam Cancryn write this morning, White House aides “have settled on a hard-line strategy aimed at pressuring McCarthy to stick to a spending deal he struck with Biden back in May rather than attempt to patch together a new bipartisan bill.”
Those spending levels were hailed by McCarthy as “the biggest spending cut in American history” and a “major victory” for the GOP before a conservative backlash forced him to walk away from it.
“The White House and Democrats negotiated in good faith with Speaker McCarthy, shook hands, and reached a deal this summer to prevent the very quagmire in which America now finds itself,” another House Democrat said in a text message. “The only thing Democrats should be more vocal about is our disgust that the deal was so brazenly breached.”
With Democrats on the Hill happy to sing from the Biden administration’s hymnal, partisans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are sitting back, watching the chaos and working to make sure that no matter what happens, Republicans bear the blame for the shutdown.
The messaging memos are starting to fly: The White House on Wednesday morning sent a missive to the Hill laying out the tangible costs of a shutdown, from unpaid servicemembers to delayed infrastructure projects.
And in previously unreported talking points sent out yesterday, House Democratic leaders boiled things down to a phrase: “Extreme MAGA Republicans are plotting a shutdown, pursuing partisan impeachment. … House Democrats are putting People Over Politics to grow the middle class.”
The bigger question facing Democrats on the Hill revolves around the other big threat looming over the House — the promise that McCarthy’s critics will file a motion to remove him as speaker should he cut a deal with Democrats to fund the government.
Democratic insiders described chatter about what a lifeline might look like: securing passage of a clean stopgap and a bipartisan 2024 appropriations process, for instance, in return for Democrats standing down on a motion to vacate the speakership.
But such a deal remains unlikely. Even if McCarthy were inclined toward such an agreement — which would poison his ability to lead Republicans — Democrats are hardly in alignment.
There might be “a world where people vote present or vote to table,” one member told us, but Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) put it this way: “I like him as a person, but why would I want Kevin McCarthy to continue as speaker?”
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