Sep 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Republicans stare down growing odds of government shutdown

Rep. Steve Womack. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Top House Republicans are openly acknowledging the increasing difficulty they will have in averting at least a brief government shutdown.

Why it matters: Congress is barreling towards the Sept. 30 federal funding deadline with no resolution in sight and Republicans still stuck on discussions about how to maximize their leverage in negotiations with the Senate.

What they're saying: Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a senior Appropriations Committee member, conceded that there is “not enough time” to come up with a stopgap funding bill that can pass both chambers of Congress before Saturday.

  • “I think everybody holds out hope that we’ll be able to avoid [a shutdown], but I don’t know how,” Womack said. “I just don’t see a move that can prevent that. … it’s not going to be resolved by this weekend.”
  • “The calendar is a major challenge,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), the chair of the pragmatist Main Street Caucus. “Republicans understand that, and we're working in an expeditious manner.”

State of play: The House is expected to spend most of the week trying to pass appropriations bills before turning to a stopgap spending bill on Friday, giving them just one day to try to a head off a shutdown.

  • The proposals the House GOP is debating to temporarily fund the government, however, are focused on unifying their own members and would likely be non-starters in the Senate.
  • The Senate is spending the week on a bipartisan stopgap bill, but "that thing is dead over here,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.).
  • “The longer we go without an obvious path forward, the more likely [a shutdown] is,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Rules Committee.

Between the lines: The House’s votes this week — including on annual spending bills that are non-starters in the Senate and may even have trouble passing the House  are not about keeping the government funded.

  • “[It's about] leverage ... we’ve got to get something over there,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said of passing a party-line Republican stopgap bill.
  • Norman forecasted a 99.9% chance of a government shutdown because "the Senate's not going to agree to anything" the House sends.

The big picture: Even a short shutdown could have profound reverberations across the country.

  • In addition to millions of federal workers being furloughed, some lawmakers fear broader financial implications. Credit rating firm Moody's has already warned that a shutdown would be "credit negative" for the U.S.
  • A shutdown could also result in disruptions to government benefits and health care programs, longer airport wait times and delayed FDA food inspections, Axios' April Rubin reported.

What we're watching: Some centrists on both sides of the aisle are discussing ways to bypass House Republican leadership and force a vote on a continuing resolution that could pass both chambers.

  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said he has had talks with House Democratic leadership about possible procedural tactics to force a vote on a proposed bipartisan bill that would keep the government funded at 2023 levels.
  • "We have 10 or 15 people that want to take us into a shutdown, out of 535. It's unacceptable," Bacon said. "We're offering an opportunity for a bipartisan landing spot.
  • Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), a frequent bipartisan collaborator, put the case for a so-called "clean" continuing resolution bluntly: "We're out of time."
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