What to Know in Washington: Lawmakers Begin Shutdown Blame Game

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The federal government hasn’t even shut down yet, but the blame game has already begun.

That’s because the stakes are big. The party, or branch of government, that bears the blame of a shutdown could face political consequences in 2024. In past shutdowns, voters have largely put the fault with Republicans, who portray themselves as the party of limited government, for massive furloughs of government employees and a nationwide pause in many federal services.

Even Republicans say it may be difficult to shift blame for a shutdown away from members of their party this time.

“Republicans are likely to shoulder the blame,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who is now a lobbyist with Holland & Knight. Even if it’s just a few Republicans who seem to relish a shutdown, the GOP, “as a governing party, is just not showing their chops,” he said.

Read the latest BGOV OnPoint: High-Stakes Spending Showdown Embroils Congress

The Republican Main Street Partnership and the group Women2Women put out polling recently showing that even among GOP primary voters, half think their own party would be at least partially to blame and half think the Democrats would take the blame.

In another poll, the group found that a plurality of voters think Republicans will be the most to blame if the government shuts down at 38%, while 17% think voters will blame President Joe Biden. Read more from Maeve Sheehey.


  • The president will deliver a speech on democracy and honoring the late Sen. John McCain around 1:45 p.m. in Tempe, Ariz.
  • Biden participates in a campaign reception in Phoenix around 3:45 p.m. and will depart for Andrews Airforce Base around 5 p.m. and return to Washington.


  • The House is back at 9 a.m. to continue work on fiscal 2024 appropriations bills.
  • The Senate returns at 10 a.m. with a procedural vote later to advance a CR.
  • For more details on the full agenda read BGov’s Congress Tracker.

Shutdown Deadline Nears

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
McConnell walking to the Senate floor.

KEVIN MCCARTHY is making big demands of Biden but bringing little leverage to the debate over averting a shutdown.

  • “I want to sit down with the president to secure that border,” McCarthy told reporters yesterday, as he and Republican hardliners demanded a resumption of construction on Donald Trump’s border wall, stricter new asylum and immigration policies, no new aid to Ukraine, and deeper federal spending cuts.
  • Unlike with the debt ceiling, Oval Office negotiations aren’t materializing for one simple reason: Biden and other Democrats aren’t afraid this time. Read more.

MITCH MCCONNELL distanced himself from House Republicans’ shutdown demands. Emerging from a closed-door meeting yesterday of Senate Republicans, The Senate minority leader defended a bipartisan Senate plan to temporarily keep the government open until mid-November.

  • The proposal, including $6 billion in Ukraine aid, “makes sense for the Senate, I also think it makes sense for the country,” McConnell said. Read more.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS from swing districts started turning against their own spending bills yesterday over objections to steep spending cuts and abortion restrictions demanded by conservatives.

  • At least five Republicans from competitive districts — Reps. Anthony D’Esposito (N.Y.), Mike Lawler (N.Y.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), Marc Molinaro (N.Y.), and David Valadao (Calif.) — said they’re at least likely to vote against the Agriculture-FDA appropriations bill (H.R. 4368).
  • The lawmakers criticized a combination of spending cuts to rural programs at the Agriculture Department and a measure that would withdraw a FDA policy that allows the abortion pill mifepristone to be dispensed via mail.
  • The Ag-FDA and other funding bills on the House schedule this week wouldn’t prevent a shutdown, but Republican holdouts against voting on a stopgap funding bill made their potential support contingent on advancing appropriations bills with deep spending cuts first. Read more.

Also on the Hill

SHELEE KIMURA will testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee today that Hawaiian Electric is not responsible for last month’s deadly Lahaina wildfire. According to her prepared testimony, the CEO will say that all of Hawaiian Electric’s power lines in West Maui had been de-energized for more than six hours by the time the Afternoon Fire began. Read more.

SEN. ED MARKEY asked MARK ZUCKERBERG to stop the release of Meta’s AI chatbots because of the potential to exacerbate privacy harms to children on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, Politico reports, citing the Massachusetts senator’s letter. Read more.

GOP Presidential Candidates Square Off

Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy participate in the Republican primary presidential debate.

SEVEN GOP PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS spent two hours hammering each other, Trump, and Biden in a debate that often felt close to chaos. None of them managed to deliver a defining moment that could pull them decisively away from the pack, further establishing Trump’s dominant position in the race. Read more.

  • Hot-button topics included the U.S.-Mexico border, combating China, Ukraine funding, the UAW strike, abortion, and crime.

NIKKI HALEY vigorously argued with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and her own state’s senator, Tim Scott, for a second strong debate performance. Read more.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis invoked Ronald Reagan, arguing that he would follow a “hard power” approach to China. Read more.
  • Ramaswamy said “transgenderism” is a form of mental illness, calling medical interventions “barbaric.” Read more.

TRUMP and DEMOCRATS received blame for the deficit spending driving the shutdown threat, striking a rare moment of agreement in the debate.

  • “Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt that set the stage for the inflation that we have,” DeSantis said.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Christie blamed Trump and Biden equally for what he called a lack of leadership on spending, saying, “Biden is hiding in his basement and Trump is hiding behind the walls of his golf clubs.” Read more.

TIKTOK aired several ads throughout the debate as the candidates traded barbs on how best to limit China’s influence in the U.S. Read more.

TRUMP skipped the debate to woo blue-collar voters in the battleground state of Michigan, attacking the Biden administration’s push for electric vehicles. Read more.

People, Power, and Politics

REPUBLICANS on the House Ways and Means Committee released over 700 pages of documents provided to the committee by IRS whistleblowers, the latest in the panel’s attempt to investigate Biden’s family. Read more.

HARLAN CROW is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Haley in Dallas next week, according to an invitation shared with Bloomberg, while Fidelis Realty Partners co-founder Lynn Davis will host one in Houston. Read more.

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The outcomes of several lawsuits aiming to broaden where gun owners can carry their weapons could hinge on how the Supreme Court decides an upcoming case about the rights of domestic abusers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeannie Baumann at jbaumann@bloombergindustry.com; Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com

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