Updated Sep 21, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Congress leaves for weekend with no shutdown solution in sight

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Congress is officially heading home for the weekend after conservative hardliners once again tanked plans to fund the government, forcing House GOP leaders to abandon their latest plan to avert a shutdown on Oct. 1.

Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has struggled for weeks to find a solution that can garner enough Republican support to pass on the floor. After momentary optimism following Wednesday night's 2.5-hour conference meeting, the House GOP has again reverted to dysfunction.

  • Earlier Thursday, five GOP hardliners sank a vote to open debate on a Pentagon funding bill for the second time in three days — underscoring the depth of McCarthy's crisis.
  • "This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. It doesn't work," McCarthy told reporters after the Pentagon bill went up in flames.

State of play: Conservative Republicans including Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Dan Bishop (N.C.) and Cory Mills (Fla.) have expressed opposition to McCarthy's plan. A handful of "soft no's" are also leaning against it.

  • McCarthy unveiled the 31-day continuing resolution (CR) during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday evening, after leadership opted to pull a procedural vote on a similar plan Tuesday due to a lack of support.
  • The new proposal included lower spending levels, language on border security and plans for a commission on spending. But even these concessions failed to sway enough members to assure it would pass on the floor.

What they're saying: Critics of the measure have blasted the appropriations process, complaining that McCarthy promised votes on all 12 appropriations bills during negotiations to elect him speaker.

  • Hardliners say they're opposed to "kicking the can down the road" and want to enact deeper spending cuts on the individual appropriations bills — even if it means letting government funding lapse on Oct. 1.
  • "Kevin thinks he could do the approps bills for show and the CR for dough," Gaetz, one of McCarthy's top critics, told Axios.
  • "The new CR, we put a bow on it and are giving it a new name. I mean it is the same old nonsense in this town," Crane told reporters.

The intrigue: Former President Trump and several of his outside allies, including former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, have come out against McCarthy's plan, which some argue solidified some of the defectors' opposition.

  • Trump has called on Republicans to "defund all aspects" of the "weaponized" Biden administration, declaring it their "last chance" to halt his "political prosecutions."
  • "It was definitely a shot in the arm to our "no CR" movement to have the president join us," Gaetz added.

The big picture: Lawmakers are largely in agreement that a government shutdown is inevitable in two weeks time.

  • If Republicans somehow manage to coalesce around a short-term spending plan, they'll still need to engage in bipartisan negotiations with the Democratic-led Senate.
  • Senate Democratic leaders have already declared the GOP's conservative proposals dead on arrival, though this hasn't stopped hardliners from agitating for even deeper spending cuts.
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