Barreling Toward a Shutdown

Happy Monday! We hope you’ll forgive us for a more personal opener than usual, but we hope you’ll join us in congratulating longtime TMD editor, and now Dispatch executive editor, Declan Garvey, and his lovely bride Maddie, on their beautiful wedding Saturday. It was in Des Moines, so there was some talk of politics, and many of the Chicagoans wanted to talk about football despite, well, the Bears. But most of the attention was focused on the couple and the wonderful weekend. We tried to get some scandalous stories about Declan’s past but the best we could do was an anecdote about having to pay to take a cab to school because he was late and something about attempting to be cool by purchasing a fedora on a high school band trip to Hawaii. The newlyweds aren’t in Hawaii now, but we wish them a terrific honeymoon and many happy years ahead. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Former President Donald Trump issued a thinly veiled threat to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley Friday, seemingly in reaction to a profile of Milley published in The Atlantic the day before. Trump made an apparent reference to reporting that in 2020 Milley reassured his Chinese military counterparts that the U.S. was not preparing an attack against them after he received intelligence China believed a strike was imminent. “This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH,” Trump wrote on his TruthSocial account. “A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act. To be continued!!!” GOP Rep. Paul Gosar echoed the former president’s rhetoric, writing in his weekly newsletter that “in a better society … General Milley would be hung.”
  • Ukraine launched multiple missile strikes on Russian positions in Crimea on Friday and Saturday, damaging the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Ukrainian officials say that at least nine people were killed and 16 were injured—two Russian generals were among the injured, according to the Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budano. The strikes followed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington to meet with lawmakers and President Joe Biden. During their meeting, Biden reportedly told Zelensky that the United States would provide Ukraine with American-made long-range missiles, Army Tactical Missiles System (ATACMS). Zelensky followed his U.S. trip with a stop in Canada where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday $482 million in new military aid to Ukraine over the next three years.
  • House Republicans made little progress over the weekend on a plan to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. GOP hardliners maintained their opposition in the face of calls from House leadership and their colleagues in the Republican conference to relent. “I don’t want to see a shutdown, but there is no doubt in my mind that the country is headed for a shutdown, and everyone should prepare as such,” Texas Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales said Sunday. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reversed course on Ukraine aid on Saturday, saying that he would leave the approximately $300 million in the defense spending bill instead of giving it a separate vote—the original plan he told reporters of on Friday. Republicans are planning to vote on four of the remaining 11 spending bills on Tuesday, including the defense bill. 
  • Sen. Bob Menendez—a New Jersey Democrat—was indicted on bribery charges on Friday. The senator is accused of taking bribes such as a luxury car, mortgage payments, gold bars, and more than $500,000 in cash in exchange for using his office and chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to increase U.S. aid to Egypt and provide favors to businessmen in his state. The 39-page indictment also names Menendez’s wife and three New Jersey businessmen. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on bribery charges, but the case ended in a mistrial with the judge eventually acquitting the senator of several charges and prosecutors dropping the remainder. A chorus of high-ranking Democrats including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has called on Menendez to resign. The senator has stepped down as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee but said on Friday, “I am not going anywhere.” New Jersey Democratic Rep. Andy Kim announced on Saturday he would run to unseat Menendez in 2024. 
  • The U.S. and China have agreed to a framework for economic talks, the Treasury Department announced Friday. The countries have established two economic and financial working groups led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, as part of the administration’s broader initiative to improve communication with Beijing on a number of sensitive issues.“It is vital that we talk, particularly when we disagree,” Yellen said Friday
  • French President Emmanuel Macron announced Sunday that French troops will withdraw from Niger over the next two months. The decision comes after the military junta that ousted Nigerien President Mohammed Bazoum this summer pushed for a rapid French exit. It’s unclear whether the 1,100 U.S. troops currently stationed in the country will remain or follow suit. 
  • The United Auto Workers union (UAW) expanded its strike Friday with another 5,600 members walking off the job—bringing the total to almost 19,000. The move increases pressure on General Motors and Stellantis as now all the companies’ spare-parts distribution centers are affected by the labor action—the expanded walkouts did not include Ford, where strike leaders say more progress is being made in contract negotiations. Biden will travel to Michigan on Tuesday to join strikers on the picket line, and Trump is scheduled to speak to workers the following day. 
  • The Writers Guild of America reached a tentative deal with film and television studios Sunday night after a nearly five-month-long strike. “We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional—with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the union said in a statement to its members. The agreement will need to be finalized and voted on by union leadership and members before the strike is lifted.
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum qualified for the second GOP presidential debate, Burgum’s campaign said on Saturday. The debate—scheduled to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET—is set to feature the same slate of candidates as the first, with the exception of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson who is expected to miss the cut. 

Government Shutdown, Ahoy!

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters after leaving the House Chambers. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters after leaving the House Chambers. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Members of Congress, like high schoolers, are perennially procrastinating on their group projects. But it goes without saying that the problem with elected representatives acting like high schoolers is that lawmakers’ group projects have much higher stakes than those of your average 16-year-old in biology class. 

A shutdown seems increasingly likely as the countdown to the end of the fiscal year ticks well into the single digits—with lawmakers having passed only one of the dozen bills needed to fund the government. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is fighting a civil war with hardline members of his own fractious, razor-thin majority who are weaponizing House procedure to keep the body from passing not just the appropriations bills, but also a “continuing resolution” (CR) to fund the government at current levels for a few more weeks to forestall a shutdown and give them more time to pass the new bills. 

Most years, appropriations season runs congressional staffers ragged but doesn’t give the average American much reason to tune in. As the end of the fiscal year approaches, lawmakers haggle over what’s called “discretionary spending,” which makes up about one-third of the government’s total outlays in a year. As part of this process, they’re not touching so-called “mandatory spending,” which includes funding for entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid: That spending runs on autopilot from year-to-year without the need for congressional reauthorization and constitutes the other two-thirds of the federal government’s yearly outflow of cash. (Though Republicans once advocated reforms to the mandatory spending that drives the nation’s debt, there’s now a fairly bipartisan consensus against any serious effort to find cost savings on entitlement spending.) 

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