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Great Game: McCarthy blinked first

Congress reached a settlement and postponed the government shutdown - but where does this leave the Republicans, who seemingly blinked first?

On a tension-filled Saturday, a mere three hours away from a government shutdown, the US Senate passed a continuing resolution ensuring the wheels of the US Government would continue turning for another 45 days. Many expected a drawn-out standoff over GOP’s spending cuts or the border policies. However, the final outcome was not only surprising but raised eyebrows on the GOP’s newfound focus.

Ukraine takes center stage

To the astonishment of many, the Ukraine War took center stage during the negotiations. With all other spending continued as-is, Ukraine emerged as the unexpected contentious point for the Republicans. It was an interesting turn of events, especially since the short-term funding patch that eventually got the green light omitted any of the anticipated GOP’s cuts or border policies. Instead, it included a solitary addition – a $16 billion allocation for disaster aid as sought by the White House.

One might wonder, why Ukraine? Over the past years, the Freedom Caucus, among other segments of the GOP, has grown increasingly wary of the escalating funds channeled into the Ukraine conflict, which now tally at an overwhelming $40 billion. Their skepticism isn’t unfounded – with a seemingly distant prospect of a Ukrainian triumph, many Republicans are questioning the wisdom of pouring yet more money into Zelensky’s war machine.

Yet, McCarthy’s compromise did not slash the funds for Ukraine. Rather, he has agreed to spotlight it as a standalone issue, suggesting a separate vote on the matter. This move might appease some in his caucus, but it also underscores that the GOP essentially caved in and refused to take the hard line on the appropriations debate. With Ukraine seemingly ready to dominate the upcoming election cycle’s discourse, one cannot help but question the GOP’s sidelining of pressing issues like the border crisis. Why the shift in priorities?

The big loser in Saturday’s events was obviously the Ukrainians and President Zelensky. Support for Ukraine is still solid in Europe and the US, but the lacklustre results on the frontline combined with rising energy costs and continuing inflation is eating into the foundation of public support. I expect to see news of cease-fire negotiations before Christmas unless President Biden can rally the nation and Congress behind Kiev’s case. More on that in next week’s Great Game.

What’s next?

Over the next month and a half, the

Congress reached a settlement and postponed the government shutdown – but where does this leave the Republicans, who seemingly blinked first?

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