GOP Hardliners Defeat McCarthy Government Shutdown Bill, Risking Longer Closure

Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to keep the government open for 31 days past the Oct. 1 shutdown deadline was defeated by hardliners in his own party, making a lengthy federal closure more likely.

(Bloomberg) — Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to keep the government open for 31 days past the Oct. 1 shutdown deadline was defeated by hardliners in his own party, making a lengthy federal closure more likely.

The vote was 232 to 198 against with 21 Republicans joining Democrats to defeat the measure, an embarrassing loss for McCarthy that deprives the House GOP of even a settled list of demands to end the impending shutdown.

The failed vote likely delays eventual negotiations on a solution with President Joe Biden and the Democratic Senate. 

It also makes it easier for Democrats to portray the shutdown as purely driven by GOP chaos. 

The debacle will cost House Republicans “a lot of leverage” in negotiations, said GOP Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas. “Doing nothing is not a hand.”

Financial markets have largely shrugged off the growing risk of a shutdown as investors focus on high interest rates, rising oil prices, labor strikes and slowing consumer spending. But the clash has stoked concerns over US government dysfunction, with BlackRock Inc. CEO Larry Fink warning the “irrational” drama is “scary” and undermining America’s standing with investors.

Read More: BlackRock’s Fink Says Looming US Shutdown Is Irrational, ‘Scary’

A government shutdown would initially have mild economic impact but build incrementally as millions of workers go without salary, private contractors aren’t paid and consumer uncertainty grows. 

McCarthy’s short-term spending bill, unveiled in the dead of night early Friday, would have temporarily cut funding for most government agencies by 30% and imposed new asylum and immigration restrictions, provisions that are anathema to most Democrats. It also would have set up a deficit commission to study cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements. 

The provisions were not enough to win over a handful of ultraconservatives who have vowed to oppose all temporary funding to keep the government open.  Even if the bill had passed the House, the sharp cuts and border provisions made it toxic in the Senate. 

The ultraconservative members want the House to continue to vote on 12 individual spending bills and reconcile them with the Senate, a process that could take many weeks. That effort is further complicated by the fact the GOP is unable to pass all of the bills.

Read More: The Shutdown Seven: Here Are Lawmakers to Watch in Negotiations

The effort to defeat the short term measure was led by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, a fierce opponent of the speaker. 

“We just have the courage to lead and not surrender,” Gaetz exhorted his colleagues before the vote.

Gaetz is preparing to try to oust McCarthy from his role in the coming days, but McCarthy could be saved by Democrats. 

With the House in a stall, hopes for limiting the length of an economically damaging shutdown turn to the Senate.

Senate Action

The Senate is working on a bipartisan bill to fund the government for 47 days, while providing $6 billion in aid to Ukraine and $6 billion in disaster aid. Because of procedural hurdles raised by opponents of Ukraine aid, it is likely to approve that bill on Sunday, hours after the shutdown deadline.

McCarthy has promised the GOP conference behind closed doors that he will not allow a vote on the Senate bill as written. But his stance could soften if it is amended. 

A bipartisan group is attempting to add up to $6 billion in border security funding to the Senate bill, something that could eventually allow McCarthy to put it on the floor. Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema and moderate Democrat Joe Manchin are working with Republican leaders on a possible amendment. Adding border funds would only require 51 votes in the Senate so it could be achieved with minimal Democratic support. 

Once the Senate passes its bill, McCarthy will face a difficult choice of whether to allow a vote on a spending measure that could easily pass the House with Democratic support but would likely trigger the Gaetz-led effort to oust him. 

If McCarthy stonewalls, moderate Republicans have said they would use an arcane House process known as the discharge petition to force a vote to reopen the government.  That could take at least nine days to play out. 

Republican Representative Mike Lawler of New York said Friday if McCarthy’s short-term bill were blocked, he and other moderates would begin pushing to pass a bipartisan version. 


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