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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 
a resolution.

   "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 job.

   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 
the Senate.

   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 

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