Congress Is Still Writing 2023 on Its Checks
Plus: Has Ted Cruz cursed Texas sports teams?
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The government shutdowns and funding crises that have become hallmarks of Republican-led Houses during the past several years are back once again following a few weeks’ respite. Congress didn’t avert the last shutdown so much as push it back a few congressional pay cycles, and major fights are coming up when lawmakers return to Washington next week.
Much like the final season of Netflix's The Crown, this winter’s government funding feud will come out in two tranches a few weeks apart. The continuing resolution that kept the government open in the fall established two separate dates for funding to run out for two different sets of government agencies and spending areas. If new spending isn’t approved by each deadline, those parts of the government will shut down.
The first drop date is January 19. By that day, the House and Senate will need to reach common ground on government appropriations related to:
Energy and Water
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
Transportation and Housing and Urban Development
The second set of appropriations will be due by February 2 and will focus on the following areas:
Commerce, Justice, Science
Financial Services and General Government
Interior and Environment
Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services
State and Foreign Operations
In each of these areas, there are ongoing fights and disagreements about spending levels. But the major point of friction is Republicans’ overriding focus on securing significant cuts in non-defense spending. While the debt agreement that President Biden and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached last May set caps on non-defense spending levels, there is potential for more money above the planned cuts, setting up a showdown between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.
In addition to the numbers, individual lawmakers can tank momentum by latching on to wedge issues or adding “poison pill” amendments of their own. These are often easy to spot: They might include obvious political signposting about abstract culture-war issues that don’t have a clear budgetary aspect (banning “wokeness” from government agencies or the military, for instance), or they’re amendments that provide or dismantle protections related to abortion or that focus on similar political flashpoints.
On top of these fights over the spending that will allow the government to keep functioning, there are also additional legislative deadlines related to lingering issues like the upcoming expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program, the FAA’s authorization, and some Medicaid service extenders. There’s also the fraught matter of the supplemental foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, which Republicans are still demanding to pair with concessions on immigration and border enforcement. (Their slipperiness on the specifics of their demands in this area have created an impression of insincerity.)
All told, lawmakers have some very big hurdles to clear heading into 2024. Surely it will be an easy task for [checks notes] the least productive Congress in modern history.
Who will fill George Santos’s illegally paid-for shoes?
Primary elections are coming, and along with these contests, there will also be a special election to fill a recently vacated seat. This sort of thing wouldn’t normally merit a great deal of interest outside the district deciding whom to send on its behalf to Congress, but voters in New York’s 3rd district will enjoy an outsized share of national attention thanks to two things: first, the precarious balance of power in the House, and second, the ostentatious flameout of the last person they sent to D.C., whose seat they are now going to fill with someone a bit less dramatic: George Santos. The vote to replace the disgraced congressman will take place on Tuesday, February 13.
The candidates for Santos’s seat are Tom Suozzi, the Democrat who held the seat for three terms until stepping away from it in 2022, and Mazi Melesa Pilip, a Republican representing the 10th district of the Nassau County Legislature.
Suozzi is well positioned to flip the seat from red to blue1: He was elected to the seat several times before leaving Congress in 2022 to run for governor of New York. He has name recognition and strong financial backers. Pilip’s pros are that she’s a fresh face with a unique background, and she’s a massive departure from Santos. (It’s a bit easier to get away with lying about being on a college volleyball team than lying about being a mother of seven kids.) But then again, who wouldn’t be?
A caveat: Pilip is the handpicked candidate of a panel of local Republican officials. An Ethiopian-born veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, she’s a former Democrat who says she supports Ukraine funding (her husband was born in Ukraine) and offers familiar normie Republican answers on the future of her party’s top leadership. (Stale waffles: “Trump is one of the candidates,” she told Jewish Insider, and “once we know who is the Republican nominee, we’re going to support that person.”)
Candidates like Pilip are not always successful in picking up Republican nominations. The primary system rewards bomb throwers and generally unqualified people, who often emerge victorious over people who would be competent to do the job and moderate enough to appeal to independents. More extreme candidates and their most ardent backers are often aligned with the Republican party’s kingmaker and presidential frontrunner, while candidates like Pilip, no matter their actual ideological credentials, end up being attacked for compromising with Democrats or insufficiently supporting Trump.
The special election will be a key race for maintaining House Republicans’ waning majority. In addition, it could serve as a bellwether for each party’s prospects in the upcoming general election as it relates to the House, Senate, and even presidency. The race for Santos’s seat could also give early indications of the winning—or losing—issues for other politicians to run on in the coming months. But all this should be taken with a grain of salt. There is no one-size-fits-all race for the rest of America, and there’s always a chance that a bellwether will lead the rest of the flock astray.
The Curse of Cruz
I’m not a gambling man, but if I were, I’d be using one betting angle in particular to decide where to put my money down. In games where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) shows up in person to cheer for a team, the overwhelming odds are that his preferred team will lose.
Since 2017, teams whose games Cruz attended have failed 15-2 against his favor. It seems that everywhere Cruz goes, Texas sports teams keep losing.2
The most recent point on the trend line was last night’s Sugar Bowl, which saw the Washington Huskies defeat the Texas Longhorns 37-31.
According to Reddit CFB, if you had bet $100 on each of the Cruz-supported teams to lose during this period, you would today be $2,344 richer—nearly enough to cover an average month’s rent in D.C. Cruz responded to the accusations that he is bad luck, demanding credit for the wins he attended, including the Houston Rockets’ 1994 NBA Finals victory.
Just one of the many ways to make a buck in Joe Biden’s economy.
Vacant to blue, actually.
I’m not complaining.