Republicans Scramble to Find a Path Forward

Republicans Scramble to Find a Path Forward

Reuters/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

With intraparty tensions running high, House Republican lawmakers are searching for a path forward on a federal funding plan that would avoid a government shutdown in just 10 days’ time.

After House leaders were forced to scrap a procedural vote Tuesday on a month-long spending bill Republicans spent the day trying to hash out a new plan that would unite their fractious conference, but sharp disagreements remained as frustrated lawmakers headed into a 4 p.m. meeting.

Republicans have reportedly been working on a revised stopgap bill that would include even steeper cuts to non-defense spending and possibly establish a commission to examine the nation’s long-term budget challenges. House Republicans had called for a bipartisan fiscal commission as part of the 2024 budget resolution released on Tuesday and passed out of the Budget Committee today. (For those interested in more on the various spending levels being proposed for the House stopgap, Roll Call has some details here.)

Speaker Kevin McCarthy reportedly pitched a plan for a short-term funding bill based on a $1.471 trillion discretionary spending cap, along with a proposal for a commission to address the debt and provisions addressing immigration issues. Government funding in 2024 would be set at $1.526 trillion.

Among the other options reportedly being considered: A process by which the House would take up many proposals and the one with the strongest support would get sent to the Senate. “I like a lot of ideas to come up and have the best idea win,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday.

However, any plan that can win the support of Republican hardliners would likely be doomed to fail — or to be heavily revised — in the Senate, meaning that House Republicans would again have to try to overcome their internal divisions or allow the government to shut down.

A bipartisan group of centrists, meanwhile, is working on a fallback plan that reportedly may try to win the backing of a majority of House lawmakers by combining border security measures with supplemental funding for Ukraine and disaster aid.

“Me and a handful of others think it’s time for a bipartisan solution, and you can’t trust these five or 10 people to support anything,” Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska told The Hill, referring to Republican hardliners. “So the right answer has always been all along to go bipartisan because you got to do it anyway with the Senate.”

The bipartisan approach may also bypass McCarthy. “Some Republicans are seriously considering getting behind a shell bill that could, as soon as next week, serve as the vehicle that allows moderates to supersede McCarthy’s control of the House floor and force a vote to keep the government open,” The Washington Post reported Tuesday evening. “Such a move would keep McCarthy’s fingerprints off whatever bill is ultimately voted on in the House. But it would undoubtedly irritate colleagues who have said that passing any bill with Democratic votes would immediately trigger a motion to remove McCarthy from the speakership.”

Any deal involving Democrats would likely be a last-ditch effort to avoid a shutdown given that McCarthy’s Republican critics are still threatening to call for his ouster if he turns to the other party. “If Speaker McCarthy relies on Democrats to pass a continuing resolution, I would call the Capitol moving truck to his office pretty soon because my expectation would be he’d be out of the speaker’s office quite promptly,” Rep. Matt Gaetz told reporters Wednesday.

A reporter on Tuesday found what appeared to be a motion to remove McCarthy drafted for Gaetz in a Capitol bathroom, and some Republicans are reportedly already considering who they might back to succeed McCarthy as speaker.

The bottom line: House Republicans are trying to find a way out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, but even if they can find a way, the solution will likely be short-lived. Any funding agreement that emerges will at best just give McCarthy a starting point to negotiate with the Senate over how to avoid a looming shutdown.