Jul 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP lawmakers whisper about government shutdown

 (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Some House Republicans privately expect a spending fight to trigger a government shutdown in October, with one member telling Axios they "wouldn't be making any plans" for that month.

Why it matters: Speaker Kevin McCarthy's ranks include members who are skeptical he can pull off another legislative survival by the end of September — with worker furloughs and shuttered federal services at stake.

  • A senior GOP source darkly recommended that congressional trips overseas “should be bought with refundable tickets” if they’re in early October.

Zoom in: House conservatives oppose the use of an "omnibus" to package all 12 must-pass appropriations bills together — but lawmakers are pessimistic about the odds of passing the bills individually by Sept. 30.

  • Six GOP lawmakers told Axios they expect to be tied up during all of September as they race to pass the spending bills and get them negotiated with the Senate.
  • Many of the House GOP's appropriations bills are being loaded with measures on hot-button topics like abortion that could threaten passage — and make it harder to negotiate with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
  • "It is kind of hard to imagine that there's like a smooth sailing deal without some like serious negotiation style, pushing and pulling,” one senior GOP lawmaker said.

Zoom out: Government shutdowns — like the Trump-era shutdown over border wall funding from December 2018 to January 2019 — can cause disruption and hardship.

  • With most functions of government lacking funding, federal benefits like food stamps would halt, and services like national parks would be closed.
  • Only workers deemed essential — such as military and federal law enforcement — would be allowed to work. Those not on the list would be furloughed until the government reopens.

Between the lines: Congress can extend the existing budget with a continuing resolution and provide members with more time to hash out a deal.

  • But many members are alarmed by the debt ceiling deal's across-the-board 1% cut to discretionary spending that kicks in on Jan. 1 unless Congress can pass a new budget.

What's next: Talks of minibuses — which could link some of the 12 appropriations bills together without being a single big package — are emerging despite conservatives balking at the idea of bundling the bills.

  • McCarthy told reporters this month that he won't put an omnibus on the floor, but isn't opposed to linking bills.
  • “I think anything but voting on 12 appropriations bills is going to be a no go,” one senior lawmaker said.
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