Sep 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP leaders float new plan to avert government shutdown

McCarthy at the Capitol. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Republican leaders floated a new proposal to avert a government shutdown Wednesday evening that appeared to win over some hardline GOP detractors — the first sign of progress in weeks.

Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suffered a series of setbacks this week in his quest to keep the government funded past Sept. 30 while pacifying his right-wing critics, some of whom have openly speculated about forcing a vote to oust him.

McCarthy's latest plan would involve:

  • A 30-day stopgap funding bill (or continuing resolution) setting the current government spending level at $1.471 trillion a year.
  • Attaching Republicans' border security legislation to the continuing resolution.
  • An agreement to set full-year spending levels at $1.526 trillion for the 12 appropriations bills Congress must pass.
  • A bipartisan commission to address U.S. national debt.

Driving the news: Several Republicans who helped tank a Pentagon funding bill on Tuesday agreed to reverse course, teeing up a vote for Thursday while GOP leadership continues to work on the short-term spending plan.

  • Leadership plans to bring the new continuing resolution proposal to the floor on Saturday, according to two sources.
  • The bill is similar to the deal negotiated by leaders of the moderate Main Street Caucus and the right-wing Freedom Caucus, but proposes slightly lower spending levels in an effort to appease some conservative rebels.
  • The proposal comes after moderates began to float working with Democrats to keep the government funded — the worst possible scenario for many Republicans — and as conservatives dug in their heels on calls to establish topline spending levels before proceeding.

Behind the scenes: Multiple sources inside the 2.5-hour meeting told Axios there were moments of tension, but felt the discussion was overall productive in finding a solution that can pass the House.

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), arguably McCarthy's most vocal critic, claimed that there were enough members to tank any measure funding the government a short-term basis.
  • Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a fellow hardliner, clapped back that the number of defections was lower than Gaetz was stating, per two sources in the room.
  • Moderates, including Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) voiced frustrations with conservatives' tactics, including tanking a procedural vote on Pentagon funding traditionally expected to receive party-line support.

The intrigue: Leaders were able to flip two of the five lawmakers — Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.) and Ralph Norman (S.C.) — who sank the Pentagon bill, leading to an announcement that the vote would be rescheduled for Thursday.

  • While Buck and Norman agreed to vote to advance the bill, it remains unclear whether it has enough votes for final passage, one lawmaker told Axios.
  • Republicans will be helped at least slightly by attendance, with at least one member who was absent during the vote on Tuesday – Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) – now back in D.C.

What they’re saying: Members appeared more optimistic about the odds of avoiding a shutdown, but bubbling frustrations with the process continue to plague the GOP conference.

  • "This isn't how you fund the government," Rep. Tim Burchett (Tenn.), who opposes leadership's plan for short-term funding, told reporters.
  • Some moderates also aren't yet sold on the lower spending levels, with Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) telling reporters that working with Democrats is "always an option."

The big picture: Most members are in agreement that there will be a shutdown on Oct. 1.

  • It's still unclear whether the new plan has the votes to unite the House GOP conference, with some conservatives including Gaetz, Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) vowing not to vote for any continuing resolution.
  • Even if McCarthy musters enough GOP support for his proposal, it would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Eventually, bipartisan negotiations to fund the government will need to take place.

Reality check: "Of course, we know that will go to the Senate, and then the Senate will have an opportunity to adjust it and and then send it back," said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.). "It's really what we will do at the end that makes the difference."

  • Still, the senior Appropriations Committee member added, "if you don't have something across the floor of the House, you've got a really weak hand" in negotiations with the Senate. "In fact, you don't have a hand."
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