RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Two Virginia representatives in Congress from opposite ends of the political spectrum are, predictably, divided on how a federal government shutdown would impact the state’s high-stakes elections – and who should bear the brunt of the blame.
U.S. Senate leaders announced Tuesday they reached a bipartisan deal on a short-term measure known as a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Nov. 17 at its current level and additional funding for Ukraine.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said House Republicans would put forward their own stopgap effort that prioritizes border security, telling reporters late Tuesday that Senate leaders’ “priorities are backwards” for focusing on aid for Ukraine over the Southern border with Mexico.
With this divide and the looming Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government, the odds of Congress averting a shutdown appear slim.
A shutdown would impact federal employees living in Virginia – one of the states with the most in the country — who would be furloughed and not get paid. It would also affect federal services and programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), that millions of Americans rely on.
It could also play a part in Virginia’s crucial 2023 state elections, political analysts and lawmakers say, which will determine control of the General Assembly next year.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), an ultra-conservative representing Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, said in a phone interview Monday that he told Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) that he doesn’t believe Virginians will base their votes in the state’s elections on a potential government shutdown, laying blame on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Well, what I told the governor is I don’t think folks will go into the voting booth on November 7 and make a decision on who they think the best Senate or delegate candidate is based on whether or not Chuck Schumer chooses to shut down the government because he won’t secure the border and he won’t cut spending,” Good told 8News. “However, I hope they will do that.”
On Rep. Good’s discussions with Youngkin on a potential shutdown, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told 8News in a text message that “the governor has regular conversations with members of the Virginia delegation and has a positive working relationship with them so that they can work together on behalf of all Virginians.”
Before Senate leaders announced their deal and Speaker McCarthy shared his plans to bring forward a GOP-led continuing resolution to the House floor, Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) told 8News that she sees parallels between this year and the 2013 federal government shutdown.
“We know that a shutdown would be devastating for a lot of Virginians,” Rep. McClellan, Virginia’s first Black congresswoman, said Tuesday. “We have seen that with past shutdowns whether it was in 2013 or 2018.”
After the 2013 shutdown, which led to thousands of federal employees being furloughed, Democrats won Virginia’s races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Republicans maintained control of the House of Delegates in the 2013 elections.
“I was in the state legislature in 2013, the last time we had state elections at the same time as a government shutdown, and people were angry,” said McClellan, who now represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District but was in the Virginia House in 2013. “People were rightfully angry then at the Republicans for their gamesmanship, shutting down the government, the impact it had on them. And they let us know about it. And I think you’re going to see the same thing here.”
Rich Meagher, associate professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College, said it would be “hard to predict” the full impact a shutdown would have on Virginia’s elections, but that “a shutdown will still be a damage to Republicans’ brand identity.”
Meagher added that it would be hard for Virginia Democrats to link GOP state candidates who aren’t aligned with Republican hardliners like Rep. Good to a government shutdown.
Rep. Good, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of the last Republican holdouts against McCarthy’s bid to become speaker, said “McCarthy should have kept his commitment” to cut nondefense discretionary funding to pre-covid levels that he made to secure the speaker’s gavel.
Republicans should focus on border security and not back a plan that does not cut spending, Good said, calling for a $64 billion cut in spending and pointing to his concerns about the national debt and deficit.
“I would hope that Republicans in Congress will stand firm in our commitment to cutting our spending, restoring fiscal stability to Washington, fight to secure the border and those sorts of things that will differentiate us from the Democrats in Congress who don’t want to do any of those things,” Good told 8News. “And that would give folks in Virginia a reason to support Republican policies that will enable the governor and General Assembly to also reverse the harm from the policies that the Northam administration along with Democrats in the General Assembly perpetuated on Virginians over the two years before Governor Youngkin was elected and Virginia gave Republicans control of the House.”
McClellan said she believes the “best-case scenario” would be for the Senate to send the House a clean continuing resolution – a measure the chamber expects to vote on this week – that McCarthy would bring to the House floor for a vote. But with McCarthy announcing his plans to push forward a continuing resolution in the House, that scenario seems unlikely.
When asked what she thinks House Republicans want in a deal to avert a shutdown, McClellan told 8News she doesn’t think the caucus knows.
“They [House Republicans] keep changing the goalpost,” McClellan said. “The speaker and House Republicans negotiated a deal with the White House on what the spending levels would be and less than four months later they’re reneging on that because Speaker McCarthy appears to be held hostage by the extreme MAGA wing of his caucus, which I call the ‘chaos caucus,’ who never seem to be satisfied with anything.”
McClellan also disputed Good’s assertion that people would fault Democrats for a shutdown if Congress can’t reach a deal before the deadline.
“If the government shuts down, it would be laid directly at the feet of Speaker McCarthy and [Florida Republican Rep.] Matt Gaetz and Bob Good,” McClellan told 8News. “I think they are the ones that are holding everything up.”
The U.S. Senate moved its stopgap measure forward, which also includes funding to allow WIC recipients to get their benefits, setting up a final vote on the continuing resolution this week. McCarthy said Tuesday that he expected the House to vote on its own continuing resolution to fund the government on Friday.
Virginia’s Election Day is Nov. 7, when polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., but early voting is open.