Congress Tries to Avoid A(nother) Shutdown

Happy Wednesday! After sticking it out far longer than anyone expected, a longshot Republican presidential candidate finally saw the writing on the wall yesterday, dropping out of the race and endorsing Donald Trump.

Farewell, Ryan Binkley. You gave it your all.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • French President Emmanuel Macron suggested on Monday that European troops could potentially be sent to Ukraine, but other European leaders quickly shot down the idea. “There’s currently no consensus to send ground troops in an official and open way,” Macron said after a meeting with other European leaders in Paris, but noted, “Nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we must so that Russia does not win.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejected the idea, saying, “There will be no ground troops from European states or NATO.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said in reaction to the comments that war between NATO and Russia would be inevitable if troops were sent to Ukraine, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed yesterday that there are “no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine.”
  • Germany will host two days of peace talks in Berlin beginning today with officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan. The two countries have been negotiating a potential peace treaty over the last few months, but tensions have remained high in the aftermath of an incident earlier this month near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in which four Armenian troops were killed. Last September, Azerbaijan forcibly took control of a contested but autonomous Armenian-majority territory, Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting more than 100,000 people to flee to Armenia.
  • Republican and Democratic congressional leaders met with President Joe Biden on Tuesday to discuss plans to avoid a government shutdown that could begin as early as this weekend. “It was both a productive and intense meeting,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters outside the White House yesterday, although he also noted the two sides remained far apart on a foreign aid and border security package. House Speaker Mike Johnson said he was “very optimistic” about the government funding talks and said the leaders believe “we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown.” Absent any congressional action, the government will partially shut down on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
  • Biden and former President Donald Trump were projected to win the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in Michigan on Tuesday night, respectively, further increasing the likelihood of their rematch in the 2024 presidential election.* Trump has now prevailed in all six contests on the GOP side, and was leading former Gov. Nikki Haley in the Wolverine State 68 percent to 27 percent with 94 percent of the vote tabulated. Haley has vowed to stay in the race until at least Super Tuesday. Biden collected more than 81 percent of the vote in Michigan, but a protest movement among progressive voters to mark ballots as “uncommitted” in a show against the president’s support for Israel netted over 13 percent.
  • The Justice Department’s antitrust division launched an investigation into UnitedHealth Group, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. The healthcare giant controls UnitedHealthcare, the country’s largest insurer, and Optum, a health services provider. Investigators are reportedly scrutinizing the ties between the company’s insurance business and Optum, since the subsidiary also sells services to UnitedHealth’s insurance competitors, potentially creating a conflict of interest. In 2022, the Justice Department lost its bid to prevent Optum from acquiring a health-tech company, Change Healthcare.

Congressional Funding Time Warp

Speaker Mike Johnson addresses the media at the White House on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, after a meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss funding the government and avoiding a shutdown. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Speaker Mike Johnson addresses the media at the White House on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, after a meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss funding the government and avoiding a shutdown. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Here at TMD, there are a few events around which we can set our watches: presidential primaries, debates, Federal Reserve meetings, and, every few months, writing a newsletter that includes the words “looming government shutdown.”

Just like clockwork, here we are again. House lawmakers are back on Capitol Hill today—for the first time in more than a week—with only three working days to forestall a partial government shutdown that will take effect Friday night, March 1. (The leap year thankfully gives them a whole extra day to negotiate.) The text for these funding bills is still MIA, leading some members, including allies of House Speaker Mike Johnson, to grumble about the legislative hemming and hawing that has put them on such a tight deadline for the fourth time since the end of the last fiscal year in September. While Johnson has several times promised and repromised that the days of continuing resolutions would be over, another stopgap funding deal that would extend government funding at current levels seems increasingly likely. 

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