Murkowski goes wobbly: C'mon, let's re-open at least part of the government

Alternate headline: “Murkowski still a lady-cuck.”

This is the inevitable first step to resolving the standoff, the equivalent of freeing some — but not all — hostages in a standoff. Pelosi’s already begun passing bills that would fund specific agencies, like the IRS, in order to force GOPers to vote no over and over on bringing parts of the government back online. Moderate Republicans in the Senate increasingly are willing to say yes to her offer, though. If they can reduce the pain of the shutdown to the public by getting a few agencies back up and running, why not do that? Granted, siding with Democrats even in a limited way will weaken Trump’s hand, but at some point purple-state Republicans will have more to fear from voters who are angry about paychecks and services being cut off than they will from right-wingers who are angry that they’re not standing firm with Trump. We’re approaching that point.

In interviews with a wide range of Senate Republicans, a number have grown anxious about the long-term impact of a partial shutdown that has shuttered a quarter of the federal government and impacted hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors, including many in their states who will soon miss their first paychecks. And some GOP senators are signaling a new willingness to allow a number of key federal agencies — such as the Treasury Department, the Transportation Department and the National Park Service — to reopen even if the fight over the border wall is not resolved, breaking with the White House and Senate GOP leaders.

“I think we can walk and chew gum,” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said on Tuesday, adding she’s “amenable to a process that would allow for those appropriations bills that have concluded some time ago that they be enacted into law — whether it’s the Department of Interior or the IRS. I’d like to see that.”

Cory Gardner and Susan Collins are onboard with this too, which is to be expected. They’re both up for reelection in 2020 in swing states won by Hillary. This is surprising, though:

West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who chairs a key subcommittee overseeing homeland security funding, said she “can live” with a continuing resolution to reopen the Department of Homeland Security while other agencies also are reopened. Doing so would punt the funding fight over the wall until a later time.

Capito? She’s from the heart of Trump country — and she’s up in 2020 too, putting her at risk of a primary challenge if she blows up Trump’s leverage. She’s also going further than the Gardners and Collinses by hinting that she’d be okay with re-opening not just ancillary agencies but Homeland Security, which is at the heart of the fight over the wall. Whatever she’s hearing from constituents about the shutdown must be dire to make her this eager to end it despite all of her tribal partisan incentives to the contrary.

Not everyone’s wobbly. Thom Tillis is potentially facing a tough race in 2020 in purplish North Carolina but he’s still onboard with a wall fight for now. How about Joni Ernst, though? She got elected as a late-stage tea-party star in 2014 in Iowa, a state that went twice for Barack Obama. Trump won it easily two years later but Iowa’s not the Republican slam-dunk that, say, Nebraska is. She’ll need to face the voters next year with Trump at the top of the ticket. How’s she feeling about the shutdown? Quote: “It hurts all of us and everybody that’s looking from the outside. They’re like: What is wrong with you? Why can’t you find a solution?” Even Marco Rubio (who’s not up again until 2022) sounded cautiously receptive to re-opening some government agencies when he spoke to CNN. We’re a long way from a dam break of 13 Republican senators that would hand Schumer a filibuster-proof majority but we may have already reached the point where a simple majority of the Senate is to prepared to re-open certain departments. Expect to hear that soon from Schumer, and often.

I haven’t seen any sort of informal whip count today of House Republicans who are willing to vote with Pelosi to end the shutdown. Estimates yesterday were 15-25 with Kevin McCarthy hoping to limit the eventual damage to fewer than 55(!) defections in order to deny her any shot at a veto override. Some moderate House Republicans like Adam Kinzinger are speaking out against the shutdown but Kinzinger has always been outspoken. I don’t think there’s any sign of a broader crack in the caucus’s resolve — yet. Here’s Murky doing her Murky thing.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022