McCarthy Experiences Limited Choices to Avert Impending Government Shutdown

Government Shutdown Looms as Speaker McCarthy Races Against Time and Opposition

By Stephen Groves and Lisa Mascaro | Associated Press

As Speaker Kevin McCarthy scrambles to prevent a government shutdown, his options are dwindling. Even including hardline border security provisions in a proposed stopgap measure failed to appease the far-right faction in his Republican House majority.

McCarthy urged his Republican conference to be prepared for an extended stay this weekend to pass a continuing resolution, which would keep government offices open beyond the Sept. 30 deadline. However, the political consequences of a shutdown are already looming large.

“I’ve informed all members of Congress that they won’t be going home. We’re going to continue working through this,” stated McCarthy at the Capitol. “Sometimes, tough decisions are worth it.” He also expressed confidence in the abundance of “good ideas” from Republicans, dismissing the need to compromise with Democrats as he pursues passage of the annual spending measures on his own.

“We still have a long way to go,” he emphasized.

According to insiders, McCarthy proposed a Thursday vote on a one-month funding bill during a call with House Republicans on Sunday night. This bill, negotiated between the hardline House Freedom Caucus and the more pragmatic Main Street Caucus, aimed to win the support of the conservative wing by including a 1% cut to last year’s spending levels and various Republican proposals on border security and immigration. To safeguard Republican spending priorities for defense, veterans, and disaster relief, it slashes other expenditures by over 8%.

In response to the proposal, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized it as “slapdash and reckless” during a floor speech, warning of immense harm to important priorities for the American people.

With Democrats controlling the Senate and rejecting conservative options, McCarthy’s best hope at this point may be to pass a measure that initiates discussion with the other chamber. Yet, even this route remains uncertain as time runs out to strike a deal.

McCarthy plans to hold a vote on a Department of Defense spending bill on Wednesday, followed by the stopgap funding measure the next day.

“There are quite a few people currently against it,” stated Rep. Kevin Hern, the leader of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative group in the House. He added that he was still considering the proposal and that significant efforts were underway behind the scenes to secure the necessary votes.

Leaders of the “five families,” the various conservative factions constituting the House Republican majority, are expected to hold a closed-door meeting later on Monday at the speaker’s office to find a mutually agreed-upon path forward for McCarthy, who has just eight working days left before funding expires.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, chair of the Main Street Caucus and a key contributor to crafting the proposal, emphasized the need to focus on securing the border and keeping the government open.

Time is running short for Congress to take action. While McCarthy believes he still has room to maneuver before the fiscal year ends, he has also cautioned fellow Republicans that a government shutdown would likely backfire on them politically.

“I’ve witnessed shutdowns before, and I’ve never seen anyone come out on top because when you shut down, you relinquish all your power to the administration,” McCarthy warned during a Sunday interview with Fox News. “How can you argue for border security if border agents aren’t being paid? How can you fight against wokeism in the Department of Defense when even our own troops are going unpaid? You’ll have no leverage.”

However, McCarthy already faces resistance, with several Republicans taking to the platform formerly known as Twitter to criticize the proposed package—with spending cuts and border measures—as wholly inadequate.

One of the Freedom Caucus members involved in shaping the proposal, Rep. Byron Donalds, stated that House Republicans sought much-needed border security and real budget cuts. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the frustration of individuals who feel betrayed by Washington politicians.

Many are bracing for a government closure next month. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a memo to the business community on Monday, stated that there is a “substantial consensus” that a prolonged shutdown is likely, cautioning against a lack of clarity regarding reopening the government.

“A well-functioning economy relies on the government’s discretionary functions on a daily basis,” the Chamber warned. “From passports and permits to clinical trials and contractors, a functioning government is vital for a thriving economy.”

The Biden administration is also emphasizing the potential harm from a funding stoppage. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated on CNBC that the strong, growing economy should not be jeopardized by creating a situation that could disrupt momentum.

If McCarthy were willing to remove conservative policy wins from a funding bill, he could potentially turn to House Democrats to pass a stopgap measure. However, numerous right-wing members are threatening to attempt to oust him from his leadership position if he does so.

Nonetheless, Schumer called on McCarthy to adopt a bipartisan approach to keep the government running.

“Time is limited to get the job done,” Schumer emphasized. “If both sides embrace bipartisanship, we can avoid a shutdown. If the hard right takes control, a shutdown is almost inevitable.”

Associated Press writer Fatima Hussein in Washington contributed reporting.


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