McCarthy Faces Conservative Mutiny Over Spending, Shutdown

McCarthy Faces Conservative Mutiny Over Spending, Shutdown


With a looming September 30 deadline to avert a government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is boxed in by his own conference, and Republican hardliners are making it clear that the newly ordered impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden isn’t going to make them any more cooperative when it comes to funding federal agencies.

The latest sign the House is sinking into chaos: McCarthy and House Republican leaders were forced Wednesday to postpone consideration of their version of the $826 billion annual defense appropriations bill because they didn’t have the support to get it through a procedural vote. Republican hardliners were reportedly demanding a plan to cut spending in areas beyond defense.

“It’s become clear that McCarthy’s move to placate his right flank by launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden isn’t working,” Politico noted. “He still lacks the votes to pass a stopgap bill to keep the government open past Sept. 30. And some conservatives are still threatening to force a vote stripping him of the speakership.”

Even if House Republicans were all on the same page, their defense bill would not be able to pass the Senate anyway and the White House had also threatened to veto it because it is laden with culture war provisions targeting the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, transgender care and diversity initiatives.

While the House Freedom Caucus pushes for McCarthy to demand steeper spending cuts in negotiations with Biden and the Senate, the speaker reportedly had told his members that approving their own “domestic security” appropriation package, with emergency disaster relief funding attached, would strengthen his hand in upcoming spending talks.

As of now, though, McCarthy has little leverage — and no clear path forward. The speaker reportedly asked his members if they can’t pass their own appropriations bills or a stopgap measure to fund the government and won’t do an omnibus package that rolls up annual spending bills, what can they do? And he has acknowledged that the spending fight pits three against one: Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House against his House GOP conference.

“McCarthy can’t do a thing, can’t do anything. He’s completely paralyzed by his conference,” Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News told MSNBC Wednesday.  “And by the way, McCarthy has no idea how he’s going to get out of this because he’s hamstrung by the right wing of his conference which basically wants him out and doesn’t want him to do anything.”

What’s next: The defense funding bill appears to be on hold. Roll Call reports that House Republicans are discussing a three- or four-week funding bill to avert a potential shutdown after September 30 and that their plan “would push decisions on military and economic aid for Ukraine as well as disaster relief into the regular fiscal 2024 spending bills.”

For now, though, there are few if any signs that McCarthy and his members will be able to pull together behind any strategy that might fund the government and avoid a shutdown. As Politico’s Sarah Ferris, Jordain Carney and Olivia Beavers point out, “the reality is that his conservative members have enough votes to derail every one of McCarthy’s spending priorities — the defense spending bill on Wednesday, virtually all of the other 10 bills still on the docket and any kind of short-term funding bill.”

McCarthy’s other short-term option would be to rely on Democrats to prevent a shutdown. That could cost him his job, though it remains unclear which other Republican could get enough votes to succeed him.