McCarthy Struggles to Pass Temp. Bill 09/21 06:15
With no clear strategy, no sure support and not much time left, House
Speaker Kevin McCarthy nevertheless vowed Wednesday he would not give up trying
to persuade his colleagues to pass a temporary funding bill to prevent a
federal government shutdown.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With no clear strategy, no sure support and not much time
left, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy nevertheless vowed Wednesday he would not
give up trying to persuade his colleagues to pass a temporary funding bill to
prevent a federal government shutdown.
But lawmakers watching and waiting for the beleaguered leader to deliver are
looking at other options.
The Republican speaker met behind closed doors with his GOP colleagues for
another day of grueling negotiations -- arguing publicly that he still had time
to win over hard-line conservatives but privately running out of options to
keep the government funded before money runs out before the end of the month.
"It's not September 30 -- the game is not over," McCarthy told reporters as
he arrived at the Capitol.
But after a more than two hour evening meeting he had only inched closer to
"We're very close there," McCarthy said. "I feel like I just got a little
more movement to go there."
Even if McCarthy is able to accomplish the seemingly impossible and unite
his all-but-ungovernable House Republican majority around a conservative
spending plan, the victory would be short-lived. The hard-right bill, with
steep 8% cuts to many services, would be rejected by the Senate, where
Democrats are in control but even Republicans reject the House GOP's severe
Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., opened the
chamber trying to push ahead with its own bipartisan spending bills to
kickstart the process, but even that ran into trouble from Republicans.
A Senate test vote on a popular bipartisan package of defense and military
appropriations bills was turned back after opposition from GOP senators, as
some are joining House Republicans in fighting for steeper reductions.
"It's yet another reminder that in both houses, a small group of hard-right
Republicans are dead set to grind the gears of government to a halt," Schumer
McCarthy has suffered a series of setbacks this week to his plan to advance
Republicans' spending plans, testing his grip on power amid calls for his
In defiance of the speaker, a group of five GOP lawmakers from the
right-wing House Freedom Caucus joined with Democrats to prevent consideration
Tuesday of a usually popular defense bill. The bill would provide pay raises
for the troops and other measures, but Republicans want a broader discussion on
spending cuts in non-defense-related budgets.
McCarthy set up a do-over vote for Thursday as he tries for a third time to
advance the defense bill after winning over two of the hard-right Republicans
who were holding out for a commitment from the speaker on spending cuts
The House floor is essentially at a standstill, with no business related to
the looming government shutdown being conducted, as McCarthy tries to regroup.
He has warned lawmakers that they will stay in session this weekend to finish
The speaker had hoped to rally Republicans around a stopgap bill, called a
continuing resolution, or CR, that would fund the government for the next month
as talks continue. The temporary bill would accomplish some of the
conservatives' goals -- by slashing many government services 8%, while sparing
defense and veterans accounts.
The package McCarthy is trying to push through the House also proposes a
long list of conservative policies for immigration and border security that are
widely embraced by Republicans.
But the conservative holdouts also want McCarthy to commit to keeping the
funding cuts in place longer, for the full year, as budget talks continue with
During the lengthy dinnertime meeting in the Capitol basement, McCarthy
offered to meet the conservative holdouts partway, vowing he would fight for a
lower overall spending level in the subsequent bills.
But that still wasn't enough for some. One key conservative, Rep. Matt Gaetz
of Florida, stood up and warned the room that at least seven Republicans would
oppose the continuing resolution, according to those familiar with the private
meeting. That's enough to deny passage.
Among others still opposed to the stopgap measure, Rep. Marjorie Taylor
Greene of Georgia said afterward she too would vote against it.
Commanding only a slim House majority, McCarthy needs almost every
Republican on board to pass any conservative bills over the objections of
"It's a tough job and keeping all of these members appeased is next to
impossible," said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.
About McCarthy, he said, "He's doing the best he can, but we have to give
him a hand to play."
As the Republican lawmakers were fighting among themselves for another day
in the Capitol, others reached across the aisle to Democrats to try come up
with a bipartisan solution.
Two centrist groups, the New Democratic Coalition and the Republican
Governance Group, are having their own conversations on how to solve this
impasse, according to a person familiar with the talks who insisted on
anonymity to discuss them. Their groups together make up 145 members.
Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., who chairs the New Democratic Coalition, said on
Tuesday she was hoping that a coalition of "roughly an equal number" of
Republicans and Democrats would emerge to support a continuing resolution.
"These are the people that are making public statements that a shutdown is
not good for the country," she said.
And members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of Republicans and
Democrats are also in talks to develop a framework that would fund the
government for several months, into 2024, while budget talks continue,
according to a person familiar with the private negotiations and granted
anonymity to discuss them.
Also at stake is President Joe Biden's request to provide an additional $24
billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia
that some lawmakers want to add to the must-pass bills needed to fund the U.S.
Meanwhile in the Senate, a robust bipartisan group of senators was had been
trying to show strength as they prepare to negotiate with the House on
government funding. But the Senate's effort to advance the bill fell short
again Wednesday as Republicans dug in for a fight.
It's not the only Senate fight as senators are reeling from Schumer's
decision to do away with the chamber's stuffy dress code, in a nod to
Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who has preferred wearing
casual clothes while working to recover from a stroke and depression.
Fetterman on Wednesday upped the ante: "If those jagoffs in the House stop
trying to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine, then I will save
democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week," he said in a