It appears House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is resigned to the fact that his conference’s far-right flank will likely continue to hold the appropriations process hostage when the House returns next month.
At one point before Congress left for August recess it appeared as though the House speaker was trying to convince hardliners to get in line and quit their shutdown-flirting shenanigans by offering them a carrot: the prospect of an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
But that whole gambit seems to be out the window. Both Punchbowl and NBC News reported Wednesday that McCarthy acknowledged to House Republicans during a conference call earlier this week that Congress will probably have to pass some sort of stopgap bill to avoid a government shutdown come October. McCarthy reportedly said he thinks “it will be necessary to buy time,” in NBC’s words. It was not clear how much time he’ll push for in a potential stopgap bill.
The private remarks suggest that McCarthy not only acknowledges the practical reality of his situation — lawmakers won’t return to Congress until next month, leaving them just a few weeks before the Sept. 30 deadline when money runs out — but also the ongoing battle he faces with such a slim majority. His far-right flank has been risking a shutdown since the beginning of the appropriations process earlier this summer, delaying the process of passing House versions of spending bills by trying to stuff culture war grievances into them.
Before the August recess House Republicans did manage to pass a few bills out of committee, but most include riders that would restrict abortion access, harm the LGBTQ community and roll back elements of President Biden’s agenda. All of this is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
While McCarthy reportedly didn’t address the fact that it happens to be members of his own conference who are risking a shutdown by delaying the appropriations process in the House during the call — the Senate got all 12 of its versions of the spending bills through committee before recess — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said it explicitly in announcing that he and McCarthy had agreed to work on a short-term spending bill when they return.
He made the remarks during an interview on MSNBC Wednesday:
“Speaker McCarthy and I met a few weeks back and we agreed we should do what’s called a CR — in other words, a congressional resolution where you just extend the existing funding for a few months so we could work this out. And I thought that was a good sign. But I would say this: Our Republican colleagues in the House need to follow the lead of their Republican colleagues in the Senate and work in a bipartisan way.
“If McCarthy follows the hard right and tries to do a partisan bill he’s going to lose,” Schumer said. “The hard right wants to shut down the government. But McCarthy knows that that would be a disaster not only for the country, but for his party.”
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