House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finally had a win Tuesday evening, with a bare majority of his conference agreeing to advance four funding bills to the floor—the first time since July he’s been able to manage that. It’s not clear at this point whether any of these four appropriations bills—Defense, Agriculture, State-Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security—have enough votes to pass. What is clear is that none of them will keep the government from shutting down at 12:01 AM on Sunday when funding expires.
McCarthy’s plan, if it can be called that, is to convince his hardline members that he is committed to passing the remaining 11 out of 12 total appropriations bills one at a time so that they’ll let him have a vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government open. He told reporters that would happen “probably on Friday,” and that his CR will include some kind of border security measures.
What’s more, according to one Republican, McCarthy told his conference Wednesday morning that he won’t bring to the floor the CR that the Senate has started work on.
That Republican, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, could be overstating McCarthy’s promise, but he is on the record saying he won’t bring it up without changing it and that he doesn’t think it would pass. (For the record, it probably would with Democratic votes.)
Rejecting the Senate’s bill might be part of the rest of McCarthy’s plan, which is to blame the Democrats for the shutdown because they reject the House Republicans’ racist immigration bill. That feeds into McCarthy’s ploy to try to involve President Joe Biden in his mess. When Biden refuses to get involved in the negotiations and bail McCarthy out, McCarthy can say that all Biden had to do was something something border security.
That’s not even flying with McCarthy’s extremist colleagues. “At the end of the day, leadership procrastinated and created a mess,” Tennessee GOP Rep. Andy Ogles told reporters. “Now we’ve got to find our way through it. And if that means staying [in Washington] a couple of extra weeks with a shutdown, that’s fine.”
Ogles is already a “no” on the stopgap funding bill that McCarthy plans to bring up Friday, as are Reps. Eli Crane of Arizona, Cory Mills of Florida, Matt Rosendale of Montana, and Tim Burchett of Tennessee. That’s enough members to tank McCarthy’s plan, even if Rep. Matt Gaetz—who has vowed not to vote for a CR—relents.
McCarthy seems to think he can strong-arm all these people into changing their votes and avoid a shutdown. He also seems to be operating under the delusion that these nihilists don’t want a shutdown.
Meanwhile, the Senate reached agreement on a bipartisan CR that would keep government funds flowing until Nov. 17 in hopes that the full appropriations bills for the 2024 fiscal year would be completed by that date. The Senate voted 77-19 to start work on the bill Tuesday night. At the moment, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is doing his usual thing and promising to obstruct the bill because it contains about $6 billion in aid to Ukraine. If he keeps that up, the bill might not pass until Sunday—officially the first day of a shutdown.
A shutdown seems inevitable. The only question is how long McCarthy will let the government stay dark.
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