May 23, 2024

Rep. Byron Donalds and Rep. Matt Gaetz traded blows on Monday in an unlikely pairing of foes. The two House members have both been outspoken surrogates for Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, but the coming government shutdown fight has them on different sides. 

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Donalds supports a continuing resolution that would supposedly garner some modest spending cuts while Gaetz wants to shut down the government in order to extract a laundry list of revolutionary concessions. That’s the dividing line that led to the following exchange. 

Donalds is correct on the merits that Jack Smith’s special counsel would not shut down due to a government shutdown so score one for him. With that said, Gaetz is obviously correct that there are agencies in the government that do not deserve to be funded given what has transpired over the last few years. A 30-day CR is just kicking the can down the road, though some concessions on border security, as Donalds claims would be present, would be welcome.

As to my opinion about all this, both men aside, my tolerance for these shutdown fights has waned over the years. I view it as mostly just another example of failure theater. In a vacuum, I prefer the hardline stance Gaetz is taking, but when you don’t win elections, you do not have the leverage to enact sweeping governmental changes. Barack Obama was never going to repeal Obamacare because of Sen. Ted Cruz’s shutdown, and Joe Biden isn’t going to slash the federal budget by 40 percent now.

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Of course, the biggest problem here is that conservatives don’t take action when they actually do have power. Republicans held all three branches of government from 2017-2018. Why didn’t they enact sweeping spending cuts then? Why didn’t they force border security via reconciliation then? Why is it only when Democrats are in power that Republicans want to rattle their swords and push these impossible gambits? I’m much more impressed by a party that effectively wields power when it has it than a party that makes loud noises when it doesn’t. 

Returning to Donalds and Gaetz, what we are seeing is likely a preview of the 2026 gubernatorial primary in Florida. Both men have signaled they want the job, though it’s not clear either would be the favorite. We are going to see a lot of posturing over the next few years. 

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