Congress Navigates the Countdown to a Government Shutdown.In the frenzied world of politics, decisions often come down to a matter of timing and strategy. With just six days remaining until the government faces the possibility of grinding to a halt, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finds himself at a pivotal crossroads. Does he take the risk of a government shutdown to preserve his leadership position, or does he cross the divide within his own party to collaborate with Democrats?
This moment has been brewing for months, shaped by McCarthy’s attempts to win over his critics within the Republican ranks. In a bid to curry favor with his detractors, McCarthy has permitted Republicans to proceed with voting on a series of appropriations bills this week, fully aware that they stand no chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
However, time is slipping away, and Republicans are yet to rally around a short-term solution. McCarthy’s earlier concessions to hardliners, made in January when he assumed the role of Speaker, are now coming back to haunt him.
As GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a trusted ally of McCarthy, notes, this situation was always destined to become a contentious battle. McCarthy has publicly and privately urged members of his conference to unify around a common position, emphasizing that a government shutdown will not strengthen their position in negotiations. Yet, he still faces a faction on the right that prefers a shutdown to any collaboration with Democrats. To complicate matters, former President Donald Trump recently entered the fray, encouraging Republicans on Truth Social to oppose any spending bill that doesn’t defund the Department of Justice or investigations into him.
“Don’t let the D.C. uniparty scare you into thinking that a government shutdown is the end of the world,” wrote Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona on social media. “A so-called shutdown is really a pause in nonessential federal spending.”
The situation for McCarthy has grown even more complex since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer advanced his own short-term spending bill, which may include provisions for disaster aid and additional funding for the war effort in Ukraine—something that hardliners in the House staunchly oppose. If the Senate passes this bill, McCarthy will face the difficult decision of whether to put it up for a vote in the House, ignore it altogether, or attempt to amend it—a dilemma that carries its own set of risks for the Speaker.
Moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia expressed his concern about McCarthy’s leadership, stating, “I know Kevin McCarthy, and I like Kevin. I’m just—sooner or later, they’re going to have to decide how he’s going to be able to lead.”
McCarthy, however, has not committed to bringing a Senate-passed stopgap bill to the House floor, as he understands the potential consequences for his position. He said, “We will continue to work with people. I just believe if you aren’t funding the troops and you aren’t funding the border, it’s pretty difficult to think you are going to win in a shutdown. I’ve been through those a couple of times.”
During a recent conference call with the Republican caucus, McCarthy urged members to unite behind a short-term spending bill that includes funding for border security, providing House Republicans with a starting point for negotiations with the Senate. However, GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas expressed reservations about putting a Senate-passed stopgap bill to a vote in the House.Congress Navigates the Countdown to a Government Shutdown.
The House is set to return to session, with votes scheduled on a series of yearlong spending bills for the departments of Defense, State, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. Nevertheless, each of these bills faces uncertainty on the House floor. The leadership failed twice to advance the defense bill last week, and the agriculture bill also encountered obstacles earlier this summer.
Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana emphasized the urgency of the situation, saying, “Let me be clear on one thing: Every single day that we wait and we get closer to October 1, that is giving more leverage to the administration. It’s taking away leverage from House Republicans.”
Members and their aides have been working tirelessly over the weekend to iron out any differences before the bills reach the floor. Even if Republicans can reach consensus on these four spending bills, they must still pass another seven, two of which have not yet cleared committee. Time is of the essence, as negotiations with the Senate and presidential approval must also be factored in before the looming deadline.
Rep. Marc Molinaro of New York, a moderate who played a role in the proposal to move individual spending bills, acknowledged the potential hurdles. Nevertheless, he hopes that advancing more individual bills might sway some of his hardline colleagues in favor of a stopgap bill.Congress Navigates the Countdown to a Government Shutdown.
McCarthy has temporarily shelved the House GOP’s stopgap bill amid opposition from the party’s right-wing faction, but he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of revisiting it later. As Molinaro put it, “I’m not here to say I have the utmost confidence.” Yet, “the goal is to try to move as many as possible to show the good-faith effort on both sides to move a broader package… The concern (among hardliners) was that it was a head fake, that we were gonna move one appropriation bill but no more.”
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are engaged in talks about a last-ditch effort—a short-term spending option that could buy Congress more time to negotiate a full-year spending package.
As the clock continues to tick down, the decisions made by McCarthy and his counterparts will have far-reaching consequences for the nation. The fate of government funding hangs in the balance, and the political landscape is fraught with uncertainty as the nation watches closely to see which path our leaders will choose.Congress Navigates the Countdown to a Government Shutdown.