Sep 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP plans last-ditch effort to pass spending bills

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

House Republicans are gearing up for one last attempt to pass a spate of party-line government spending bills before government funding runs out on Sept. 30.

Why it matters: Top GOP lawmakers hope that passing the bills will put them in a stronger negotiating position with the Senate as they try to avert a government shutdown without touching off a right-wing revolt.

What we're hearing: During a call Saturday afternoon, House GOP leaders tried to sell their members on their plan to pass a few annual spending bills and then pivot to a measure to keep the government funded temporarily.

  • Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made the case for the stopgap measure, which includes the GOP's border bill, telling those on the call, "We are missing a chance to beat up Biden on the border and actually have a victory," a source confirmed to Axios.

State of play: The House is set to vote Tuesday to bring four funding bills — for the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Agriculture — to the floor.

  • The bills, which would set spending below the levels agreed to earlier this year in the bipartisan debt deal and are packed with conservative policy riders, would be dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate and wouldn't avert a government shutdown.
  • But GOP leaders are "trying to get this process on a path where we can truly reduce spending," Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a McCarthy ally, told reporters.

Yes, but: It's not yet clear whether those Republicans will have the support within their conference to advance those bills to a final vote, much less pass them.

  • McCarthy told reporters Saturday that the defense funding bill will include the $300 million in Ukraine aid that led his ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to join with a small group of hardliners in sinking the bill last week.
  • Instead, the House will vote on amendments to strip out that funding — which almost certainly will fail because of broad bipartisan opposition.
  • House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told members Saturday that there will be votes on more than 180 amendments on the Defense appropriations bill alone.

Right-wingers' reflexive rejections of the GOP leadership's attempts to pass spending bills has incensed McCarthy and his inner circle.

  • "The arsonists have lit their house on fire, they're whining about their house burning, they're going to want credit for putting the fire out, and then they're going to set up a GoFundMe to get paid," Graves said.
  • Right-wingers' opposition to the stopgap spending bill Republicans proposed earlier this week, Graves said, was a "failed strategy — a flawed strategy to empower [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer."

Zoom in: The agriculture bill could present another snag: centrists' opposition to language restricting access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

  • "I can't support the ag bill if it includes that prohibition," said Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) — though he said lawmakers will evaluate "where [the spending bills] land" after amendment votes.

Between the lines: Nobody believes Congress will pull off the miraculous feat of fully funding the government within the next seven days, and Republicans acknowledge the need for a short-term spending bill to give lawmakers more time.

  • "There will be a stopgap period of time that will be needed to complete the appropriations bills," Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), chair of the House Administration Committee, told reporters.
  • How long that bill will keep the government funded remains a question, said Graves, who added the discussion among House Republicans is "between 14 and 60 days."

What we're watching: While the House attempts to pass annual funding bills, the Senate is gearing up to pass a bipartisan stopgap bill that could put more pressure on the House to fall in line.

  • A persistent group of right-wing House Republicans, meanwhile, continues to say they won't vote for any bill keeping the government funded temporarily.
  • Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), passing by Graves' press conference on Saturday, told reporters flatly: "I will not support a CR," or continuing resolution.
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