Congress misses its deadline to re-fund the government

Believe it or not, despite weeks of machinations, a 4,100-page bill, and a roll-call vote in the House of Representatives on Dec. 23, Congress has still missed its deadline to fund the government.


The government did not close in the early hours of Christmas Eve – although Congress managed to approve the bill before the 11:59:59 p.m. deadline on the 23rd. Legislators hesitated for weeks – and delayed the final vote on the Omnibus Expenditure Act until almost the last moment.

The Senate approved the final version on Thursday afternoon. The house on Friday afternoon.

So what’s up?

Congress doesn’t just walk down to Staples, buy a bunch of computer paper off the shelf, then print out the bill on a Xerox Phaser 3610 and send that version to the President to sign into law.

A large, complicated calculation like the omnibus has to be “deepened” and “written in”. Incorporation refers to the final version of legislation as it is passed by one body or another – but before it is passed to the other chamber. In other words, the Senate passed the omnibus and then changed the legislation on the fly, adopting a variety of amendments. Once passed, the Senate sent the amended version to the House of Representatives for adoption.

President Joe Biden.
(AP/Alex Brandon)

After the House of Representatives approved the bill, both bodies were in sync. However, it would be some time before Congressional enrollment officers finished drafting the bill for President Biden to sign.

This is not an easy process. In fact, it was likely that the matriculation clerks would take a few days to get the bill into proper parliamentary form as it was – even if they were working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Federal law requires Congress to print legislation on parchment. This is a practice that dates back to the early days of the Republic. Printing the bills on parchment was a method to protect Congress from forgery. In addition, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate must sign the bill. So the technical process of signing the omnibus to the President before Friday night’s deadline was out of the question. That would be a few days after Christmas at the earliest.


Despite the Sturm und Drang over “funding the government ahead of the deadline,” Congress poked around. Anew.

Very quietly – not a creature moved – both the House of Representatives and the Senate have already approved it Another interim expenses account. This would only leave the lights on for a few days, giving the enrollment clerks time to prepare the bill. It would only run until December 30th.

So while Congress was approving the omnibus, the government was operating on the third patch law, which had been approved by Congress since September.

“It’s all about managing risk,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is seen in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, November 29, 2022.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is seen in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, November 29, 2022.
((AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

Eighteen Senate Republicans — including Shelby — voted in favor of the omnibus bill. Only nine Republicans in the House of Representatives voted yes. But the omnibus served as a case study for the growing schism in the Republican Party — between MAGA conservatives and other “mainstream” GOPers.

“We had 18 Republicans who joined the Senate Democrats and got on their fancy planes and flew home. Chip Roy, R-Tex., in the House of Representatives chamber.

Roy’s face flushed as he yelled and gestured, his speech being heard in a Capitol corridor, one floor up from the chamber of the house – even though the doors were closed.

“I would like to remind members that the microphones are work,” House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., snapped at Roy. “People don’t have to shout.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., later took the floor to rebuke Democrats — and some Republicans — for supporting the omnibus.

While McCarthy may have railed against the bill, the legislation actually did him two favors.

First, the government funds it through next September. That way, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives won’t have to grapple with government funds when they take control next year. Second, in politics you always need a slide. McCarthy struggles to find the voices to become Speaker. McCarthy railed against the omnibus in a long-winded speech.

“This is a monstrosity that is one of the most shameful acts I have seen on this body. The appropriation process has failed the American public, and there is no better example of the nail in the coffin of the greatest failure of one-party rule in the House, Senate and Presidency,” McCarthy said.


A number of McCarthy’s most ardent supporters took the seats behind him in the House of Representatives, eager for a picture on camera of supporting the California Republican as speaker. Below Reps. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., Clay Higgins, R-La., and David Kustoff, R-Tenn.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Apparently, McGovern portrayed the roles of the two Muppet characters Statler and Waldorf, during the debate, heckled McCarthy at the end of his remarks.

“Having listened to this, it’s clear he doesn’t have the voices yet,” McGovern said dryly.

“He won’t be spokesman,” noted McCarthy antagonist Rep. Bob Good, R-Va. “He doesn’t have the 218 votes. I recently told him that for the good of the country, for the good of Congress, and for the good of the Republican Party, he should retire.”

A staggering 230 members submitted letters to the House Clerk allowing them to vote remotely on the omnibus. The House of Representatives introduced proxy voting in the House of Representatives in spring 2020 for the pandemic. But the system is now full of abuse. Technically, lawmakers are supposed to testify that they’re begging and voting from their homes because of COVID. But that is seldom the case anymore.

McCarthy vowed to eliminate proxy voting to win the Speaker’s gavel.

Chip Roy saved his pugnacious rhetoric for remote voting.

“The American people deserve that we’re here over Christmas and actually fighting for them instead of trying to catch planes while half this body will be voting by proxy,” Roy said. “They lie on forms and say they are voting vicariously for COVID and it is a lie. And half of this body will do it.”

Only one Democrat voted against the omnibus: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, DN.Y. But another team member, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., voted through a proxy. Tlaib did not vote yes or no. Tlaib shared her voice was “present” — despite her absence.

Congress never hurts for irony. And the irony is that there is no real pause between the end of the 117th Congress and the start of the 118th Congress on January 3rd.


So it looks like they’re all boxed up on Capitol Hill. But with the speaker’s vote on Jan. 3, things are really just getting started.

Nothing in Congress is ever truly complete.

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